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Fantastic Special Teams Storyline

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) scores past Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL Western Conference semifinal Stanley Cup playoff hockey series game in San Jose, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
With just under ten minutes to go in the third period, Sharks center Joe Pavelski scored a power play goal to tie Game 1 and eventually send it into overtime. What’s equally important – and you won’t find on the score sheet – is that Pavelski was also responsible for drawing the boarding penalty on Todd Bertuzzi that put the Sharks on the power play.

That’s just one chapter of the special teams’ storyline that allowed the Sharks to win Game 1. The Sharks held Detroit scoreless with the man advantage, while drawing 16 minutes of power play time. Benn Ferriero also scored his game-winning goal on the first shift following San Jose’s four-minute power play in overtime.

“We know it’s going to be a special teams’ battle,” said Sharks Captain Joe Thornton. “We feel like both teams have very good special teams and it got us back in the game there with Pavelski’s goal. We had a good chance to win in overtime with the four-minute penalty, but we couldn’t do it. So you create momentum off that.”

“It’s going to be big,” said Sharks center Logan Couture about how special teams will play into the series. “Both teams are good five-on-five as well. But when you get a power play, you want to create momentum or score a goal.”

The Sharks had six power play opportunities in Game 1 and converted on their fourth attempt when Pavelski batted in a rebound at 10:22 of the third period. The goal was Pavelski’s fourth of the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin (7), of Sweden, defends on Detroit Red Wings right wing Daniel Cleary as goalie Antti Niemi looks on during the first period in Game 1.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In overtime, Niclas Wallin drew a four-minute power play when he was high-sticked by Patrick Eaves. After wearing down the Wings defense, Benn Ferriero was able to score on the first shift after the man-advantage.

“When you get that many opportunities, you’ve got to score one eventually,” said Pavelski. “We were able to get one and I think we created a bit of momentum there in overtime. When you get four minutes in overtime like that – you saw in the last series what it can do. But the guys went out there and kept the momentum going. We didn’t lose it by any means.”

Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock expressed concern with how often his team ended up in the penalty box. During the regular season, Detroit ranked fourth in the NHL in penalty minutes, averaging only 9.2 a game. However, during the playoffs, the Red Wings rank ninth overall, with 12.6 minutes per game. That doesn’t bode well for a team that also ranks 14th in the playoffs in penalty kill percentage (70.8).

“We took too many penalties,” said Babcock. “You can’t get in the penalty box and expect to survive. They had 14 power play shots. That was a huge factor.

“They scored on the end of that power play,” continued Babcock. “They wear you out for four minutes and then they ended up winning the game that way.”

On the opposite side of the special teams’ battle, San Jose was able to kill off both of Detroit’s power play attempts while only allowing five shots on goal. Outside of drawing the penalty that led to his power play goal, Pavelski led the team on the penalty kill, having spent 1:59 on the ice during Detroit’s four minutes of total power play time.

“He was pretty darn good,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan of Pavelski. “That line once again had the puck a lot and controlled it. We liked everything about Pavs’ game tonight. A little more command on the power play point. He and Dan Boyle did nice in that area. He was a very key piece of tonight’s win.”

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