THEY’RE ALL BIG. PERIOD.
Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals at Detroit was discouraging for the San Jose Sharks. To quickly rehash: San Jose got a 2-0 lead within the first four-plus minutes of the first period, but Detroit scored the next three goals to win.
“We sat back a little bit in the last game,” Ryane Clowe
, who scored the tying goal in the second period, said. “We had a little sour taste in our mouth from that.”
On Monday night, the Sharks needed to regain the home ice advantage they earned after their 2-0 win in Game One. San Jose’s 2-1 win in Monday night’s Game Three puts the Sharks up, 2-1, in this best-of-seven series.
“Right now, the whole goal is to keep home ice advantage,” Coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve turned this into a best-of-five.”
“We have home ice advantage now,” Jonathan Cheechoo, who scored the game-winner, said. “It’s something we want to take advantage of. We went into their building and stole one. We want to protect our home ice.”
“This was our biggest game of the year,” Wilson said. “Now, Wednesday turns into the biggest game of the year.”
Two things the Sharks need to keep in mind: their opponent and what still lies ahead. Detroit is the No. 1 seed and had the second-best record in the National Hockey League this year. Also, a team needs to win four games to advance in any playoff series.
“I’m sure from Detroit’s point of view, they’re thinking all they have to do is steal one of these home games that we have and hold serve,” Wilson said. “We’re going to try to keep the pressure on.”
“We still have some work to do,” Joe Thornton
said. “It’s only two wins and we have to get four. I’m sure we’ll see a better game of them, but it’s a good feeling to grab that first win at home, that’s for sure.”
IT’S A 60-MINUTE GAME
San Jose had some difficulty with Detroit in the first period. They were outshot, 16-7. And instead of the score being 1-0 in Detroit’s favor, the Wings could’ve been up 3-0 if they hadn’t hit two posts on shots.
The first intermission called for some adjustments by the Sharks defense.
“We talked to the defense about being too passive,” Wilson said. “We were giving the Red Wings a lot of room in the neutral zone and giving our blue line away. The second period didn’t start as aggressive as we needed, but the defense did a much better job in defending the offensive blue line and the red line and our own blue line.”
Eventually, getting more aggressive worked on both ends of the ice as the Sharks outshot Detroit, 20-14, in the final 40 minutes.
“They (Detroit) couldn’t get to the red line,” Wilson said. “We were dumping it in and wearing their D down.”
While they were outshot in the first 20 minutes, San Jose set a physical tone as they outhit the Wings, 17-9. “We were playing hard and physical, but didn’t get the breaks,” Clowe said.
But the third period is when the Sharks dominated the shots on goal, 13-7, and Cheechoo got the game-winning goal on the power play.
“In the second and third periods, I thought we did a good job,” Clowe said. “We got the puck down low, had speed off the rush and no turnovers. That’s the way to shut those guys down.”
“We’ve got to come up with the same effort (on Wednesday) that we had in the second half of the game,” Wilson said.
HARD TO COME BY
Monday’s game was the fifth one-goal game for the Sharks in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s five out of eight postseason games. Out of the other three, two have been decided by two goals and one had a three-goal margin.
“There’s no room out there for anybody,” Wilson said. “When you’re playing the elite teams, it’s a little different. Look at who we’re playing. We’re playing the top teams in the League. It’s hard out there. A good defense will trump a good offense any day of the week. It’s a great battle. It’s fun to be a part of this.”