Niclas Wallin continued his mastery of playoff goals. He’d had three previous postseason goals heading into Sunday’s contest and all were overtime tallies, and consequently game winners. On Sunday, he scored in regulation, but added to his reputation for scoring only game-winners when it’s crunch time.
“I think Wallin has been known to score some big goals,” Patrick Marleau
said. “Tonight was no different. It’s that time of year where everyone contributes at different times.”
For the insurance tally, which ended up being necessary, Wallin launched a rocket that Jimmy Howard couldn’t handle and it popped up over the netminder and into the back of the net.
“I kind of got the step on Bertuzzi and he saved it, but it got up and went over and went in,” Wallin said of the play. “You’ve got to keep shooting pucks. That’s what Benny (Ferriero) did last game, he shoots and it goes off Stuart. A lucky bounce, but you work hard and those bounces are going to come.”
Wallin has been rolling with the simple mantra of putting pucks on net and taking the opportunities that come your way.
“He says he’s defensive, but we practice with him all year, he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve,” Jason Demers
said. “It’s fun to see him skate down and get a great shot. It picks up the bench even more than when a guy who scores all the time.”
“Get the puck on the net and good things will happen,” Wallin said. “I felt we played a hell of a game again. Funny bounces, that’s what happens in the playoffs. You shoot the puck and the first one usually doesn’t go in, it’s the second and third chances off rebounds. We’ll take it.”
Wallin laughed about this being his first regulation playoff tally.
“It feels good to score goals,” Wallin said. “I’m not that kind of guy (a regular goal scorer). Just let it go and see what happens. It was a lucky bounce, it was a rocket though.”
Wallin has been a little more visible in the offensive zone this series on the rush.
“It opens up a lot of space and it’s up to us to sometimes get them the puck and let them get the shots through, then it’s up to us to get in on the rebounds,” Marleau said.
“It’s more like getting up there and opening up the lanes for the forwards,” Wallin said. “I’m not one of the puck moving defensemen, but I can skate and get up and open up maybe Clowe or give a guy a lane for a shot. Then get back as fast as possible on the blueline.”
And Wallin has been doing more than his share on the defensive side of the puck as well.
There was not debating the intense physical play that entered the series Sunday afternoon. The Red Wings were looking to make a statement and Todd Bertuzzi was leading the charge and even Howard took a swipe at Joe Thornton
with his stick. Eager and the rest of the Sharks were up for the challenge and delivered plenty of contact on their own.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs, it was pretty intense,” Eager said. “He finished his check on Heater there and I just went over and gave him a little shove and fell in the bench there. It’s part of the game. Cleary had a huge hit to start the game for them and we has some hits of our own and we kept that going throughout the game. You’re hitting clean but hitting to slow those guys down.”
Eager was given a 10-minute misconduct at one point, when he removed a glove while chirping Bertuzzi. That didn’t faze the Sharks.
“Ben’s an important part of our team,” McLellan said. “He has a role to fulfill. He’s a big physical guy. He gets in some scrums now and then. He understands his job. We won the game tonight and he was part of it.”
Detroit trying to become more physical may only play more into the Sharks hands at Team Teal is a big club that almost enjoys the rough stuff with players like Ryane Clowe
, Douglas Murray
, Wallin, Eager and many others.
“It’s a competitive, hard series between two very good teams,” McLellan said. “Everybody gets a little pissed off at the opponent for some reason. There is a ton of emotion in the game and that’s what makes it great.”
“We’ve played each other both years and with good teams, there becomes a little bit of hatred in the game,” Joe Thornton
said. “Nothing cheap , but guys are playing hard and that’s what you expect in the playoffs.”
The physical play may keep coming the rest of the series.
“I think the last game, they didn’t engage as physically as they wanted to,” Demers said. “Tonight we new they were going to come out and be hard on us and they didn’t disappoint. Kudos to our team for pushing back. It goes both ways. We were ready for them. Everyone was contributing on the physical side of it.
WHAT A PAIR
Wallin and his defensive partner Ian White accounted for both Sharks goals.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty good together,” Wallin said. “He’s a good player and he’s smiling every day. It’s his first playoffs and he’s doing really well. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing.”
The Sharks went just 1-2 at home in the first round, but held home ice and are 2-0 at HP Pavilion in the Western Conference Semifinal.
“We played really hard and took advantage of our home ice for the first two,” Wallin said.
They know Detroit will be looking to do the same in Games 3 and 4.
“It’s going to be a hostile environment in there, we know that,” Marleau said. “We were in the position before, so we have to be ready for what they throw at us.”
“We won our home games, they’re going to want to win theirs,” Eager said. “We’re going to go in there and try to play like we have here.”
RED WINGS HEAD COACH MIKE BABCOCK
“Both teams came out and got power plays. They kind of got momentum off the power play, but didn’t score. But then they wore us out for four or five shifts in our zone.
“Bottom line I thought we came in here and competed. Today I thought we skated better and had more opportunities. Maybe we just weren’t good enough. They won more battles than we did. By doing that they end up with the puck more than we did.”
“We’ve got to lick our wounds on the flight home and have a day off and then get freshened up. We’ll practice on Tuesday and get ready to win the next game at home.”
“I still think we’ve got to be harder for longer. I thought that in the second period, that’s what they did. They were harder for longer. You pay a price if you keep playing in your zone. It might not happen right at that moment but it’s going to happen.”
Game 3 will be Wednesday at 5 p.m. and will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.