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Thornton, Pavelski power Sharks to 2-0 series lead

by Brian Compton /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Joe Thornton picked a heck of a time to score his first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The hulking center, who had only four assists in his team's first seven playoff games, broke a 3-3 tie with 7:23 remaining on Sunday night as the San Jose Sharks edged the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-3 victory in Game 2 of this Western Conference Semifinal at HP Pavilion.


The win gave San Jose a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, which shifts to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. It's the first time the Sharks have been up 2-0 in a series since 2006, when they ended up losing in six games to the Edmonton Oilers.
"The last game, we had the lead all game," Thornton said. "Tonight, we had to battle back all night. It's just a good win. (But) every win is huge. You want to win your home games, especially in the playoffs. It's huge going up 2-0 going into their building. It's a tough place to play, but we'll be ready."
Joe Pavelski scored two more goals in this one and became the first player with three straight multi-goal games since Mario Lemieux accomplished the feat with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 1992. He's also the first with three consecutive three-point outputs since Joe Sakic in 1996.
Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom scored for Detroit, which now has a serious hill to climb if it hopes to reach the Western Conference Finals for a fourth straight year.
"We've got to go home and we've got to get ourselves regrouped," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We have lots of time to get things straightened out and get ourselves ready to play. Obviously, we have to now answer the call at home."
Thornton scored what proved to be the game-winner at 12:37 of the third. With the teams at even strength, Lidstrom broke his stick as he went to fire a slap shot, which allowed Dany Heatley to break with the puck the other way. The power forward ripped a wrister that Jimmy Howard denied, but Thornton -- who entered Sunday with 12 goals in 83 NHL playoff games -- put the rebound home to give the Sharks a 4-3 lead.

"I don't think that we should question Jumbo's confidence at all," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said when asked if Thornton needed to score a goal. "I think if you purely evaluate his play on goals and assists, you're very mistaken. He has to contribute in the faceoff circle, he has to play against a guy like Pavel Datsyuk, which isn't an easy task. We ask him to penalty kill, we ask him to keep his shifts short, we ask him not to turn over the puck. For the most part in the first two games, I think he's done a very admirable job."
Despite not having a goal in the playoffs until Sunday's game-winner, Thornton insisted he wasn't gripping his stick tighter than usual.
"It's one of those things where I just try to set up guys," he said. "I thought tonight I had a lot of shots, but just nothing happened. Eventually, it will go in for me."

The Red Wings drew first blood 6:51 into the game on Datsyuk's sixth goal of the playoffs. The Russian center, who earlier helped kill a slashing penalty against Howard, gained control of the puck in the neutral zone, skated into the Sharks' end and fired a gorgeous wrist shot from the left circle past Evgeni Nabokov as the Red Wings grabbed an early 1-0 lead.
Pavelski tied the game via the power play at 9:01. After Justin Abdelkader was whistled for goalie interference, Pavelski took a pass from Heatley off a faceoff win by Marleau and fired a slap shot from the point that beat Howard to make it 1-1. It was Pavelski's eighth goal in as many playoff games.
"He's playing well for them," Lidstrom said of Pavelski. "You have to try and stay close to him and not give him open ice. When he's on the point on the power play, it's hard to force him sometimes. He's just playing really well for them."
Ryane Clowe put San Jose in front less than two minutes later. With the teams back at even strength, Pavelski sent a pass from along the left boards in front to Clowe, who quickly backhanded past Howard for his second goal of the postseason.
Holmstrom made Heatley pay for a slashing penalty as he tied the game at 13:17 of the first. Holmstrom, who is known for his ability to create havoc in front of the net, redirected Brian Rafalski's wrister from the blue between Nabokov's pads for his third goal of the playoffs. Detroit managed to escape the opening period tied despite being outshot 15-7.
The Red Wings took a 3-2 lead two minutes into the second period on a power-play goal by Lidstrom. Just as a boarding penalty to Marleau was set to expire, Lidstrom took a pass from Rafalski and fired a slap shot past Nabokov, who was screened by Holmstrom. It was Lidstrom's fourth goal of the playoffs and the lone goal of the period.
But penalties cost Detroit early in the third period, as Pavelski notched his second goal of the night at 4:40. After Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall were whistled for penalties just 40 seconds apart, Pavelski crashed the net and poked a loose puck past Howard to make it 3-3.

"We were shorthanded 10 times," Babcock said. "You're not going to win any games being shorthanded 10 times. For a team that was first or second as far as the least penalized team in the regular season, obviously after these two games we need to look after our sticks and have to kill penalties because we are going to the box way too many times."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Shift of the Game: The trio of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau capitalized on a bad break for the Red Wings, as Heatley collected the puck after Nicklas Lidstrom broke his stick at the Sharks' blue line, then skated into the Wings' zone and took a shot that Jimmy Howard denied. Thornton, though, was there to collect the rebound and put it home for his first goal of the playoffs. It broke a 3-3 tie with 7:23 left in regulation.

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