After surrendering a goal just 4:53 into Game 5, the Detroit Red Wings rallied for four unanswered goals as the San Jose Sharks fell, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. With the victory, Detroit grabbed the 3-2 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Sharks.
The critical Game 6 matchup is set for 6:00 PM (Pacific) on Monday at the raucous HP Pavilion at San Jose. Though the Sharks will be facing elimination for the first time this playoff season when they take the ice on Monday night, they understand that it takes four victories to win a series.
“I’m sure you’re going to see it on Monday,” said defenseman Kyle McLaren. “The series isn’t over. We know that. They know that.”
As they have all series long, the Sharks jumped out to a quick start on Saturday when center Marcel Goc stunned the capacity crowd at Joe Louis Arena by netting the game’s opening tally just five minutes into the contest. The Sharks continued to press following Goc’s goal, earning the first power play of the game and looked sharp in all three zones for the duration of the period.
However, Detroit would find the equalizer early in the second period and played like a different team once the hometown crowd got involved. The Wings played desperate hockey and were rewarded for their intensity.
“We had the one goal lead in the first and played pretty well,” said right wing Mike Grier. “But from the time it was 1-1, I thought they outplayed us. They’ve pushed hard and picked up their intensity.”
“It’s inconsistent hockey,” said defenseman Craig Rivet. “They’re not playing great, but they’re playing consistent. We’re playing sporadic hockey.”
Detroit’s first goal was set up when McLaren ran into a spell of bad luck. The veteran defenseman’s stick broke while clearing a puck from in front of the Sharks net to the sideboard. McLaren was then left to battle Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom without a stick. Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom moved the puck towards Holmstrom who corralled it, then found a wide-open Henrik Zetterberg for the tap-in goal. If McLaren had his stick, he might have been able to block the cross-crease feed.
While Detroit might have shifted the momentum after getting on the scoreboard in the early stages of the second, the game’s turning point came with 3:47 to play in the period. Pavel Datsyuk pressured Evgeni Nabokov and the goaltender’s clearing attempt hit the Detroit forward. Datsyuk collected the puck, moved around Nabokov who had come out of his crease, and deposited the puck into the empty net.
“It’s a tough decision,” said Nabokov. “I saw three guys coming at me. One was taking center away, one was taking one side away and the other was right on [Matt] Carle. I took my chances; otherwise they might have had a two- or three-on-zero.”
His turnover aside, Nabokov was valiant in defeat, stopping 29 of Detroit’s 33 shots. Detroit’s third and fourth goals both came on tic-tac-toe passing plays while Detroit was on the power play.
“Detroit came out and pushed a lot harder,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “Their second goal was obviously a back breaker, emotionally.”
The Sharks now look to shift their attention from Game 5’s defeat and look ahead to Game 6.
“We have two games,” said defenseman Scott Hannan. “Come out and play. That’s all we have to do. There are 20 guys in here that are going to come out and play our game.”
“I don’t think this team is ready to go home,” said McLaren. “There’s a lot of character in this room. We think we’ve got a lot of hockey left in us. Anything can happen in a Game 7, but we have to worry about Game 6. We’re going back home to play in front of our fans.”
SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
The Sharks have played the Red Wings tight when both teams have been five-on-five, but Detroit has been controlling the special teams battle. Detroit finished Game 5 going 2-for-6 on the power play while the Sharks were blanked with the man advantage, going 0-for-6.
“”We haven’t been getting shots through [from the point],” said Wilson. “It’s not like you can go out and get new guys to play back there. We just need to figure it out. We need to be resilient.”
“Our power play has to be better, the penalty kill has to be better and the goaltending all have to be better,” said Nabokov. “We have to play 60 minutes. Not 20, not 10.”
WON’T BACK DOWN
The playoff intensity on the ice was evident from the opening faceoff as the two teams played the grittiest game of the series thus far. But perhaps the most encouraging part about the 4-1 loss was the message sent by the Sharks veterans.
Rivet was sent off for roughing when he scrapped with Zetterberg at the end of the second period. Joe Thornton
was sent off for roughing when he bumped Detroit “grinder” Kirk Maltby after Maltby took a run at Milan Michalek. Grier was involved with several Detroit players throughout the game in various scrums. Scott Hannan, who had seen enough of Maltby running around, challenged the “grinder” to a fight, but Maltby refused to drop the gloves and Hannan was assessed a minor for roughing and a ten-minute misconduct.
“4-1, 2-1, the score didn’t really matter,” said Wilson. “I just liked to see how our guys were competing. We got physical. I’d rather lose a game 4-1, than lose a one-goal game where we were up towards the end. This way we have something to build on.”
The Sharks will look to force a Game 7 when they take the ice in Game 6 on Monday night. Game time is set for 6:00 PM (Pacific) and the game will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area in high-definition, KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.