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Different Line Combinations Key To Game Three Victory

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
When Game 3 began, with the exception of Joe Pavelski skating for Mark Bell, the Sharks lineup was the same as it had been for the series.
That changed during the course of Monday night’s contest and resulted in goals from two unique line combinations. San Jose’s first goal was scored with a forward combination of Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe and Mike Grier, three members from three separate lines. Actually Patrick Marleau was waiting to join the trio, but even if he was on the ice, it still would have been three players from three separate lines.
On the play, Thornton and Clowe controlled the puck down low before Thornton finally carried it out. He fed Matt Carle who launched a shot from the high slot. Hasek made the save, but left a rebound that Clowe backhanded across the line.
“I stayed out on the ice and got a second wind,” said Thornton. “Clowe had fresh legs. He’s just a tank out there and is huge.”
San Jose’s second tally came with a line combination of Cheechoo, Clowe and Goc. This time Clowe was the secondary assist and he and Goc worked to get the puck back to McLaren at the point. The massive blueliner launched a blast that rebounded directly to Cheechoo. The Moose Factory, Ont. product saw Hasek had the angle covered and deftly reached across for the backhander on the open net.
“It was a nice rebound and start for the power play,” said McLaren. “Cheech was working hard to get out front.”
The shot, like Clowe’s, did not cross the line by much.
“I just wanted to get it in there,” said Cheechoo.  “It seemed faster on the ice. I saw him slide over, drop the stick and throw out the blocker. He takes away a lot of the net.”
A big baseball fan, Cheechoo threw out a baseball analogy on not always using his lethal slap shot.
“Some times you have to change it up,” said Cheechoo. “You can’t bring the heat all the team. I’ve scored a few where the puck was moving slower and the goalie missed it.”
Ron Wilson changes lines periodically throughout the season when a game is not going according to plan, so the moves were not a problem.
“We played with so many line combinations during the season,” said Clowe. “I don’t know if it’s by design, but nobody is afraid to play with anybody. I played with Joe and Patty for a couple of months.”
“It worked for us tonight,” said Grier.
Cheechoo has previously played with Goc and Clowe.
“I played once with them and lasted one shift,” said Cheechoo of a regular season game. “I took a penalty and got kicked out.”
The story of Games 1 and 2 of this series centered on goals created off turnovers, errant passes in the two defensive zones and all-around play that was, in the opinion of both head coaches, not the fundamentally sound game that characterizes both teams.
On Monday night, the Red Wings were much more responsible with the puck, forcing the Sharks to go a different route for the two goals necessary to claim a Game 3 victory. To create any scoring chances against the Wings, who were protecting the puck like a dog with newborn puppies – Detroit was credited with a mere eight giveaways, a paltry number for a puck possession team – the Sharks turned to old-fashioned elbow grease in the second period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.
“We played our game. We got the puck down low and we had speed off the rush – no turnovers. That’s the way to shut those guys down,” said Sharks forward Ryane Clowe.
After one of the Sharks longest cycles of this postseason, Clowe netted the tying goal, potting a rebound off a Matt Carle shot with all-world defenseman Niklas Lidstrom draped all over him.
“I actually tried to lift it over [Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek]’s pad. I think the space it went in was just enough to fit a puck,” Clowe said.
The sequence started with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo winning a battle behind the net with two Red Wings and ended several seconds later after some hard work along the boards bought the Sharks enough time to make two forward substitutions while the five Red Wings on the ice were gassed. Sharks from different forward lines – Thornton, Clowe and Mike Grier – were eventually on the ice for the goal.   
Until Clowe’s goal, the Red Wings executed their puck possession style and controlled most of the tempo making it a high-octane skating game. With the Sharks giving Detroit skaters too much room, according to Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, the Red Wings held a 16-7 shot advantage after one period with Lidstrom capitalizing on their second power play opportunity.
“We were giving them some room,” Wilson said. “Detroit’s game is different. They’re trying to move through the neutral zone. We’re trying to take that away from them.”
Wilson credited his team for playing big and “banging, crashing” from that point on.
“They were beating us to pucks, winning some battles in the first period – they were working harder,” Grier said. “So [Wilson] put lines together that were going to play straight ahead, chip pucks, support, forecheck and cycle.”
After Clowe’s goal, the Sharks owned the space along the boards starting with another long cycle by Grier and Clowe that resulted in a Todd Bertuzzi elbowing penalty and continuing with shift after shift of physical hockey throughout the third period.
“You get two or three good shifts in a row and you boost the energy on the bench. I don’t think we were playing that good after the first period. [But] we had a great second and great third tonight,” Thornton said.
“We were much more aggressive [in the second period]… We were dumping the puck down and working their D,” Wilson said.
The two Sharks goals may not have been pretty, but the muscle supplied to get them was certainly effective.
“Between me and Cheech’s goal, both of them might not have reached the back of the net,” Clowe said.
The Sharks finished the game with a 36-29 advantage in hits.
The Sharks once again used their size to wear down their opponent and knew if they stuck with the plan, they would eventually overcome the early one-goal deficit.
“We settled down and weren’t chasing them (after the first tally),” said Clowe.
“We didn’t panic when we were down 1-0,” said Nabokov. “After the first goal, we could see the game changing.”
One stop for the highlight reel was Nabokov’s glove save off Valtteri Filppula on a two-on-one rush. With Kyle McLaren back covering the second Red Wing, Nabokov only had to worry about Filppula, leaving a one-on-one battle.
“Obviously Kyle took the pass away,” said Nabokov. “I tried to play the shot, cut the angle and caught it with the glove.”
That save brought a tremendous roar from the crowd, but it was Nabokov’s overall performance that brought rave reviews from his teammates.
“He’s been incredible for us,” said Thornton. “He’s our backbone and we’ll go where he wants to take us.”
“He’s been great for us,” said Grier. “We know if there is a break down, he’ll bail us out.”
San Jose earned home ice advantage in Detroit and didn’t want to relinquish it their first game back.
“You never want to let them steal the first game,” said Clowe.
Clowe scored his fourth goal of the playoffs and is now tied with Milan Michalek for first on the team in playoff goals. He now leads all rookies in playoff goals (4). Clowe and Carle are now tied for first in points among all NHL rookies in the playoffs (5).
“We were giving the Red Wings a lot of room in the neutral zone and giving our blue line away. A team that is that dangerous, and they are no different than us, you are going to get picked apart.”
Ryane Clowe had an unbelievable game and Joe was easily the best player on the ice making big hits.”
“There’s no room out there for anybody, them or us, and it’s a great battle and fun to be a part of.”
“I thought we got off to a real good start. I thought we skated well and had every opportunity to be well ahead. I thought Nabokov played real well. We nailed him for a lot of chances and in the second played the puck pretty well.”
“In the second, once they scored, I thought it was the tale of two games. I thought they were better than us at that point. They beat us to the pucks and we turned the puck over more. It was the opposite of the, I guess, first thirty minutes of the game and they were able to capitalize on the power play and beat us back to the net there. Again it’s a tale of two games: first half we controlled the game and second half they controlled.”
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