SAN JOSE, Calif. – Just when it seemed that the San Jose Sharks had this one in the bag, the Red Wings flipped a switch Thursday night.
After killing off a double-minor penalty midway through the third period, the Sharks appeared to own the momentum and were on their way to snapping a six-game home losing streak.
“Killing that off you could just hear the building getting louder and louder,” Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “At that moment in time I was like, ‘Here they come. You’re going to have to make some saves for the guys.’ ”
In hindsight, Howard wasn’t all that busy late. Most of his work came early when the Sharks crossed the blue line in waves to build a 2-1 lead through two periods. But the Wings’ fortunes turned when Pavel Datsyuk and Luke Glendening scored after the four-minute power play expired to help the Wings to an exciting 3-2 comeback victory.
Rookie forward Teemu Pulkkinen also scored, getting his second career tally during a second-period power play that tied the game, 1-1, at 3:53.
“We found a way,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We stuck with it. We stayed patient. I thought in the third period we kept going. We just kept going. We got the pucks deep and our forwards did a great job with being strong on the puck and made some good plays. We had some net presence. We had some other chances as well. The power play obviously needed to be better. We got one big one there with Pulky in the second, but we needed to find one and come up with one in the third. We found a different way tonight. We’ll take the two points.”
Following a slow first period, the Wings were the aggressors, working hard through the neutral zone and getting quality chances against goalie Antti Niemi.
“He was good,” Pulkkinen said of the Sharks’ goalie, who made 32 saves. “I had chances in games before and I feel like I’ve been kind of unlucky and didn’t score, so it was good to get the one goal tonight and get the confidence up and going.”
The slow start was so bad that coach Mike Babcock was forced to call a timeout just six minutes into the game.
“We were having issues getting the puck out of our zone,” Howard said. “I thought it was smart to call that timeout because they were just throwing out the big boys one after another and guys were probably getting tired.”
Meanwhile, Niemi had the Sharks primed to end their home losing streak, which began after they posted a 2-0 win over Chicago on New Year’s Eve. The veteran goaltender made saves he had no right making, but it was his effort that kept his team in the lead as the Sharks’ offense went stagnant.
Early on, Sharks’ defenders baffled the Wings, packing the shooting lanes, while blocking 23 shots. For a while, even when Detroit shooters did get pucks through they were of the less-threatening perimeter variety where Niemi could track them easily.
The Sharks took command of the first period, out-shooting Detroit, 14-4, and grabbed a 1-0 lead. However, the Wings became much more aggressive in the second, and continued to bombard Niemi for the rest of the night. Detroit heavily out-shot the home team, 31-8, in the last 40 minutes.
“It started in the second period,” said Howard, who made 20 saves while improving his record to 18-8-9 this season. “We got going, started to get on top of them and wear on them. It makes for a long night for defensemen when you get in on the forecheck and make them turn and see the glass and we started to do that in the second.”
Pulkkinen and Darren Helm each had six shots on goal, while four others – Glendening, Kronwall, Jakub Kindl and Tomas Tatar – had three or more shots.
“I thought we took the game over basically in the second and third and Niemi was really, really good to keep them in the game but we just kept coming and found a way to get it done,” Babcock said. “I thought Pulkkinen, (Joakim) Andersson and (Stephen) Weiss were really good for us. I thought Helm was an absolute star but we had lots of good players.
“I thought Pulkkie was really dangerous. And Weiss and Andy were a real good line for us. They controlled all the shifts they had and our best line maybe early and fit in well with the group as the game went on.”
Datsyuk evened the score at 13:32 of the third, getting a shot off from the slot as Marc-Edouard Vlasic was steaming toward him. Datsyuk slickly moved the puck to his backhand and released the shot before the Sharks’ defenseman could disrupt him. The puck skipped over the goalie’s left pad and into the net.
A little more than five-minutes later, Glendening scored his first goal in nine games. As has been his calling card, this game-winner, which came with 1:15 left in regulation, was also on the backhand.
“It was great to see Glennie get rewarded with his eighth goal of the year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “For a guy who does what he does, eight goals is a good. Good win for our team and our guys competed hard and it sets us up for a game in Nashville.”
Friday is a travel day for the Red Wings, who will wrap up their six-game road trip – their longest in six seasons – against the league-leading Predators Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.
Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson will get the start Saturday, his fifth of the season.
The Red Wings now have gotten a point against all 29 other NHL clubs this season. Anaheim, Montreal and Tampa Bay are the only teams Detroit doesn't have at least two points (in a game) gainst.