San Jose will face Vancouver in conference finals starting
Patrick Marleau was in the right place at the right time Thursday night. His tap-in goal with 12:13 gone in the third period proved to be the game-winner as San Jose defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 to capture the Western Conference Semi-Finals in seven games at HP Pavilion.
Coming back from three consecutive defeats to Detroit to force the seventh game, the Sharks raced to a 2-0 lead after one period and never let the Wings pull even.
“It’s going to get more intense, more pressure,” said Marleau, who scored his 48th career playoff goal.
“The team rallied around him,” Shark defenseman Dan Boyle said of Marleau’s performance. “He’s taken a lot of hits and was able to make a strong showing. To score the game winner is a great script.”
“Patty’s been through an awful lot,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan. “We believe in him. He’ll be that much better next series.”
After the Sharks earned the 2-0 lead, Detroit rallied for one goal in the second period. Henrik Zetterberg backhanded a shot from the low slot into the top left corner of the net off a feed from Valtteri Filppula at the end of a 3-on-2 rush at the 13:10 mark.
San Jose killed another Detroit power play in the third period. The Sharks then turned a 3-on-3 rush into the deciding goal.
Marleau was delayed at the Shark endboards as Joe Thornton made a headman-pass out of the zone. Marleau quickly joined the rush at the right flank as Boyle controlled the puck into the Detroit zone with Devin Setoguchi on his left. Setoguchi’s wrist shot from the left flank was kicked aside by Howard to the right post. Marleau had reached the blue ice and held his ground before jamming the rebound into the net.
Detroit would not go away, however. Pavel Datsyuk’s backhander from the right dot flew over goaltender Antti Niemi’s shoulder and into the net at 13:59.
The Sharks killed off another power play in the third and withstood the Detroit surge with the goaltender pulled.
“The difference was a power play goal and our penalty kill,” McLellan said.
San Jose was able to come up with two goals in the first period while Niemi was busy saving each of the 11 Detroit shots on net.
Ryane Clowe, back after a one-game absence due to an upper body injury, gave the sold-out HP Pavilion crowd a jolt nine minutes into play when he controlled the puck into the Detroit zone on a 1-on-1 rush, only to have goaltender Jimmy Howard block the high shot from the top of the left circle.
“Even before the morning skate I knew I could play,” said Clowe.
The Sharks went on the power play for the first time when Red Wing Jonathan Ericsson was called for holding Torrey Mitchell along the Detroit endboards at 11:08.
After Clowe’s power play unit started the extra-man action, Joe Thornton’s line came onto the ice after 45 seconds. The Sharks fired four shots at Howard on the power play, Devin Setoguchi making the Wings pay with a one-timer from the top of the left circle off a deft pass from Thornton. Dan Boyle set up the scoring play when he controlled the puck at the right point before finding Thornton open at the endboards. Setoguchi’s shot flew inside the left post at 12:20.
The Sharks stopped a pair of Red Wing first-period power plays to hold onto the 1-0 cushion.
Logan Couture scored on unassisted goal at 19:01 to make it 2-0. Detroit secured the puck at the Red Wing endboards after a San Jose rush. Zetterberg attempted to skate around the net but Couture caught up with the winger, jammed the puck off Zetterberg’s stick and then quickly one-timed a shot from the right not between two Red Wings and over Howard’s left shoulder.
The journey of the Sharks that began seven months ago in Sweden takes another step toward a Stanley Cup when the Western Conference Finals begin Sunday at 5 p.m. on the Vancouver Canucks’ ice.