After the first 40 minutes in Sunday’s Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals between San Jose and Dallas, the advantage was definitely in San Jose’s end.
The Sharks were outshooting the Stars, 24-17. They had the edge in faceoff percentage, 59 to 41. They were outhitting Dallas, 31-18. And most importantly, they had a 2-1 lead.
That’s not all. San Jose held Mike Modano to just a missed shot. The Sharks long-time nemesis, who entered Sunday’s game with five goals in five games in 2007-08 at HP Pavilion, was being held in check.
Alas, hockey is a 60-minute game. In those last 20 minutes, Dallas scored four goals, outshot the Sharks 9-7 and rallied to win, 5-2, and take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.
“We have to play better third periods,” goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said, “especially at home. We have to dominate teams at home. We’ve done it all season long. We have to find a way.”
“We let it slip away,” left wing Milan Michalek said. “We can’t let that happen again. We had a couple of chances and we have to bury them.”
The Sharks had multiple power plays in the third that came up empty.
“We had three power plays in the first period,” right wing Devin Setoguchi said. San Jose scored on the last of those man-advantage chances. “We have to bear down, keep the foot on the gas. We came out in the third and didn’t play our game.”
Dallas’ first goal in the third period was a sign of things to come. The puck was inside the Sharks zone when center Joe Pavelski
lost an edge, lost the puck and center Brad Richards walked in to fire a snap shot past Nabokov to tie the game.
“I went to cut back and my feet went out (from under me) and I lost the puck,” Pavelski said of Richards’ goal, which was scored with just 32 seconds gone in the period. “You can’t give a good player a good (shooting) lane like that.
“I’m not going to lie,” he continued. “I’m going to think about it a little bit. This is playoff hockey. You’ve got to let these things go.”
“They (Dallas) got a lucky break,” Coach Ron Wilson said. “There’s nothing you can do when a guy loses an edge on a play. They were in great position and a great player took advantage of a bad break.”
Yes, Pavelski fell down and that was a tough break, but he did have the last line of defense in Nabokov. The Sharks goaltender took the heat even though he was all alone.
“I should have made the save on the Richards goal,” Nabokov said. “I tried to come out and challenge him, but he made a great wrist shot.”
Another tough break came at 2:22 when defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was called for holding. Ehrhoff’s penalty took San Jose off the power play, which came about when Modano was called for tripping at 1:22.
And when Dallas went on the power play more than two minutes later, that Modano guy struck again. He took a cross-ice backhand pass from defenseman Sergei Zubov, who was making his 2008 Stanley Cup Playoff debut, and fired a shot past Nabokov for the game-winner.
It marked Modano’s sixth goal in six games this year at HP Pavilion.
Even though Richards’ goal was a preview of coming attractions, don’t tell anyone on the Sharks that was a reason for the defeat.
“We didn’t lose the game there, absolutely not,” defenseman Douglas Murray
said. “It’s still a 2-2 hockey game.”
“You don’t like seeing a goal like that scored,” Captain Patrick Marleau
said. “But, there was still a lot of game left to be played. They got another chance and buried it.”
So now San Jose travels to Dallas for Games Three and Four on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. What this means for the Sharks is very simple.
“You’re going to see a team that’s going to play desperate hockey on the road,” Setoguchi said.
MICHALEK BREAKING OUT
Milan Michalek’s goal represented the potential of the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
It put the Sharks in front of the Dallas Stars heading into the third period and had San Jose on the verge of evening their Western Conference semifinal series at a game apiece.
But when Michalek outdueled Dallas goaltender Marty Turco on a second-period breakaway, the Sharks looked anything like a team that would fall behind two games to zero or be forced into desperation mode for the rest of the series.
The sequence began when Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov saved a long shot, and Brian Campbell and Craig Rivet ignited a Sharks’ breakaway with two passes up the ice that set up Michalek one on one with Turco.
Michalek’s fake put Turco on the ground and the Sharks’ left wing skated to his left past the prone goaltender to score easily.
“I saw Marty come out and just went to the side with an open net,” said Michalek, a native of the Czech Republic and now in his fourth NHL season.
The goal was the second in as many games for Michalek, who was shut out in the first round against Calgary, in a series that went seven games. Not only was it a vintage goal, much different than his close shot that dribbled past Turco in Game 1, but it gave the Sharks a lead at the second-intermission. In three such instances at home in the playoffs, the Sharks were 3-0.
Wilson lamented some missed opportunities early that could have changed the complexion of the game. The best came in the first period when a Jeremy Roenick shot was deflected across the crease by Turco, but Dallas defenseman Stu Barnes closed quickly to prevent Torrey Mitchell
from stuffing the loose puck into an open net.
“We missed a lot of chances,” Wilson said. “The Torrey Mitchell
open-net chance, we hit the post on a power play.”
But Wilson also was mindful that the Sharks outshot Dallas, 24-17, over the first two periods.
“There were some opportunities, but you have to keep playing hard,” he said. “You don’t worry about your missed opportunities in the third period with the lead.”
Wilson felt the Stars first goal could have been eliminated with some cleaner play by the Sharks.
“They took advantage on the first goal,” said Wilson. “There was miscommunication (on our end) behind the net.”
The Sharks have been in pressure situations before and produced, notably when trailing late in Game 4 of the first-round series against Calgary and in danger of falling behind 3 games to 1. The Sharks rallied to win the game and the series.
“We believe it. That’s all that matters,” said Wilson. “It’s not what you believe but we believe. We’ve been counted out a number of times this year. We’ll bounce back. Our record showed during the season that we’re the best road team in the NHL. Now we have a chance to prove that.”
Nabokov can recall that the Sharks were down 0-2 to Calgary in the 2004 Western Conference Finals and came back to tie it at two.
“I’ve been in the situation before where we lost both at home,” said Nabokov. “We just have to take it one game at a time. Win the next one and go from there.”
The power play that provided Dallas the game-winning goal came when Christian Ehrhoff was called for holding.
“It was a bad call on Christian,” said Wilson. “I’d like to see the hold.”
Late in the contest, Wilson pulled Nabokov for Brian Boucher.
“I was trying to stall and get an extra timeout,” said Wilson.
Pavelski now has eight points (4+4=8) in nine games this postseason.
With assists on the first and second goals respectively, Jonathan Cheechoo and Brian Campbell both extended their playoff scoring streaks to three games. Cheechoo (1+2=3) and Campbell (0+3=3) have both recorded three points in that span.
Defenseman Craig Rivet recorded two assists for his first multi-point game of the postseason.
DALLAS HEAD COACH DAVE TIPPETT
“We got a break in the third period. I thought we started the game pretty well. We ended up getting those penalties, which really put us on our heels. We clawed ourselves back in. In the third period, we wanted to come out and push the envelope a little bit, and we got a break early on the early goal. I thought we pushed right to the end. We needed a strong period to win the game, and the guys came up with it.”
Game 3 will be Monday in Dallas and will start at 4:30 p.m. and be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.