Detroit extends series with third-period rally to edge Sharks 4-3

San Jose Sharks

– Leave it to the Eastern Conference to have one-sided series in
the semi-final rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
SAN JOSE – Leave it to the Eastern Conference to have one-sided series in the semi-final rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Vancouver is up 3-2 over Nashville in Western Conference competition with a sixth game Monday night. Detroit did its part in making the other Western Conference semi-final another nail-biter, scoring three goals in the third period to pull out a 4-3 victory over the host San Jose Sharks.

So while Boston and Tampa Bay await the start of the conference finals after four-game sweeps, San Jose travels to Detroit for a Tuesday 5pm PST game. The Sharks hold a 3-2 lead in the series. A seventh game, if needed, would be Thursday at HP Pavilion.

San Jose generated a 3-1 lead 54 seconds into the third period, only to give up the final three goals of the game.

Detroit scored the three goals on five shots in a 13-minute stretch. San Jose finished with a 42-22 edge in shots on net.

“We’re very confident,” said San Jose captain Joe Thornton. “We’re still feeling good about ourselves. A couple of careless plays and they put it in.”

San Jose took care of the scoring in the first period, Devin Setoguchi skating across the slot to redirect a long shot from Dan Boyle past goaltender Jimmy Howard at 17:18.

The Sharks earned the first of two two-goal leads in the second period when Joe Pavelski chipped in a cross-ice pass from Ryane Clowe to complete a 2-on-1 rush at 15:32.

“We had a number of chances, especially in the second period, 2-on-1’s,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan.

Detroit needed only 53 seconds to push its first goal past San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi to make it 2-1.

As the puck was battled for at the left boards in the San Jose zone, Niklas Kronwall skated to an open area at the top of the slot. Kronwall accepted Pavel Datsyuk’s pass and slipped a high shot into the left corner of the net at 16:25 as Niemi was screened by one defenseman and Detroit’s Tomas Holdstrom.

The Sharks gained a 3-1 lead with 54 seconds gone in the third period. Niemi’s save of a shot from the right flank left a long rebound near the blueline. Dany Heatley controlled the puck, advanced to the Detroit zone and slipped a pass to an unmarked Logan Couture. The San Jose rookie completed the play by pulling a back-hander under Howard for his fourth goal of the post-season.

The Red Wings regrouped to trail 3-2 at 3:43 of the third on Jonathan Ericcson’s first post-season goal. Henrik Zetterberg had the primary assist, finding Ericcson ready in the low slot with a pass from the endboards. Datsyuk earned the second assist.

Detroit earned the 3-3 tie at 5:29 when Danny Cleary’s wrap-around effort netted the goal despite the effort of Setoguchi and Niemi defending at the left post.

Datsyuk produced his third assist of the game on the deciding goal at 13:52. Datsyuk’s pass from the sideboards allowed Nicklas Lidstrom to set up for a hard shot from the blueline. Holmstrom parked in front of the net, then redirected the puck over Niemi’s pad for the 4-3 lead.

“The fourth one’s always the hardest one,” said Couture. “They are not going to give up easily. Leads are never safe. (Detroit) made us pay for our mistakes and they capitalized.”

Detroit coach Mike Babcock noted the strong performance by Datsyuk in the closing 20 minutes.

“We answered back. Pavel was unbelievable in the third. The penalty-killing saved us. We battled and hung in there, and good goaltending helps.”

Detroit was able to stop all four San Jose power plays.

“We didn’t play a poor game,” McLellan said. “We didn’t give up many opportunities. We made some mistakes and world-class players capitalized on them.”

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