Two of the NHL's most dominant teams of the last decade, San Jose and Detroit, met four times in what always is a highly anticipated regular-season contest, and the Red Wings took it to the Sharks with three wins and an 11-6 margin in goals scored.
"The Wings have been big brother, teasing and laughing during a fight both sides know can only end one way," columnist Gary Peterson wrote in the Contra Costa Times.
The season series wasn't exactly "Silence of the Lambs." Detroit's three wins were by margins of one goal, two goals and in a shootout.
"They're patient, they play well defensively, they wait for you to make mistakes, and then they capitalize going the other way," Sharks coach Todd McLellan, a Red Wings assistant coach before jumping to San Jose, told the San Jose Mercury News.
Eight Detroit players had at least 2 points each in the season series, while the Sharks had only four such players. Henrik Zetterberg and Patrick Eaves each had 2 goals and an assist, Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Holmstrom each recorded a team-high 3 assists, and Dan Cleary had 2 goals. Rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard went 2-0-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average in three games. Veteran Chris Osgood won his only game, stopping 33 of 34 shots.
San Jose's Joe Thornton led all scorers with 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) in the season series. Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Dwight Helminen were the Sharks' only other goal scorers, with one each. Dany Heatley had 3 assists and Dan Boyle added 2. Evgeni Nabokov started and finished all four games, going 1-2-1 with a 2.66 GAA.
San Jose and Detroit have met in the postseason three previous times, with the Red Wings winning two of the series. In 17 total games, Detroit has an 11-6 record and a 64-36 advantage in goals. They last met in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals, won by the Red Wings in six games.
Zetterberg scored the tying goal early in the third period and Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-deciding shootout goal to give the Red Wings a come-from-behind win at Joe Louis Arena.
Osgood stopped 33 shots through 65 minutes and made two more saves in the shootout to earn the victory.
Zetterberg banged in the rebound of Nicklas Lidstrom's point shot at 5:38 of the third period to tie the game, 1-1. Datsyuk and Zetterberg then scored in the shootout against Nabokov, while Osgood stoned Boyle and Ryane Clowe.
Couture scored the Sharks' only goal late in the second period, his first career NHL goal.
Trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes, Detroit scored three goals in the second period en route to the road win.
"They did a lot of simple things to score four goals against us," McLellan said. "They were disciplined. For some reason our team thought we had to play fancy and take risks. We haven't learned our lesson."
Datsyuk scored unassisted to tie the score, and Eaves and Cleary added goals in a span of 69 seconds for a 3-1 lead after two periods. Darren Helm closed the scoring in the third. Howard made 31 saves for the win.
Marleau scored for the Sharks in the first period.
Detroit secured its second win in San Jose by scoring twice in the third period to break a 2-2 tie. Derek Meech scored the go-ahead goal on the power-play.
"You always like to measure yourself up to the best in the League," Meech said. "That's the position we've been in the past couple of years. These guys (the Sharks) are at the top of the League. Every team is ready to play these guys all the time. We just have to make sure now that we're ready to play every team that we come across."
Thornton gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead with two goals in the first period. Cleary and Zetterberg tied the game in the final 5:08 of the period, and the score remained 2-2 entering the third period.
After Meech scored the go-ahead goal, Eaves closed the scoring midway through the third. Howard made 32 saves for the victory.
"I still think they are one of the best teams in the League," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "We know how to beat them. It's a matter of committing to a certain style."
The Sharks blew a 2-1 third-period lead but held on for a shootout win, avoiding a season sweep.
Nabokov made a career-high 50 saves and stopped all three Detroit attempts in the shootout. Marleau scored the game-deciding shootout goal.
"We got two points, that's what counts," Nabokov said. "Two points is two points. I don't care who they're against."
Detroit's Johan Franzen opened the scoring with a power-play goal, but Thornton and Helminen answered with goals to give San Jose a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Both teams remained off the score sheet until Jason Williams scored at 12:55 of the third period for the Red Wings. It wasn't originally called a goal, but after play was halted 12 seconds later, video review showed the puck went in and out under the crossbar.
In the shootout, Nabokov made saves on Williams and Todd Bertuzzi, while Datsyuk shot wide of the net.