May 8, 2011
The Sharks struggled with first periods and did pretty well this spring. They put up a good one Sunday, and theyre going back to Detroit anyway.
The reason: A brutal last 23 minutes, in which they blew two two-goal leads, were caught and eventually passed by the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3.
This sets up Game 6 in Detroit Tuesday night, and the Sharks are now starting to feel the hot breath of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers on their necks -- the Flyers being the team that came back from 3-0 down a year and eventually reached the Stanley Cup finals.
These Sharks are nowhere near there yet, and having given Detroit new life twice now, are no longer in a position to take advancement from this round for granted. Nor to feel all that joyous if they do.
RELATED: Game 5 notes: Bad wrist can't slow Datsyuk
Goals by Jonathan Ericsson, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom in a 10-minute period midway through the third period were the weapons by which the Wings came back from the seemingly dead, but the real culprit was San Jose itself, failing yet again to play a full game and being well and properly punished for it.
I thought we showed poise and composure, head coach Todd McLellan said, clearly assuming that the divergent views of others would be sufficiently damning to get the true point across. We made some mistakes, got caught out there a little too long on that last goal, but I think the players sent the message to each other that if we play like that Tuesday, well have a good chance to win.
We beg to differ.
What Game 4 showed and what Game 5 stamped in iron was that San Jose has not learned how to start and finish the same way, and that when confronted by good fortune or momentum they are as likely to return it like it was corked wine, if not throw it up entirely.
And because there is now Game 6 awaiting them, there is nobody who can feel confident in the prospect of there not being a Game 7.
San Jose controlled most of the play most of the time, but never enough to enjoy the two two-goal leads they had built through Joe Pavelski at 15:32 of the second or Logan Couture 54 seconds into the third.
First, defenseman Niklas Kronwall beat Antti Niemi with a wrister from a right-side angle to put Detroit within a goal at 2-1 -- 53 seconds after the Pavelski goal. Then Ericsson, another non-offensive force, scored from up close 2:49 after Coutures score, putting a seemingly safe game back in doubt.
REISS: Roenick's shot at Marleau over the line
Then it all collapsed, first behind a Cleary goal scored because he wrapped the puck around the right side of the goal and jammed in a seemingly sealed rebound at 5:29 to tie the game, and then Pavel Datsyuk picked Patrick Marleau along the left wall en route to a slapshot from the high slot by Nicklas Lidstrom that Holmstrom deflected home at13:52.
Three goals in 10 minutes, on the road, with Datsyuk playing with one hand because of a wrist injury and being unable to take any draws, and wing Johan Franzen sitting for the last 14 minutes because of a bad ankle. Thats after scoring three goals in 11 minutes to start Game 4, with elimination staring the Wings in the face.
That shows how hard the Red Wings are to kill, and how hard it is for the Sharks to be that instrument. Five one-goal games tell a story. Not playing a full 60 minutes tells a different one. The one the Sharks need to heed is the second of the two.
Whether they can do that is always a matter of conjecture with this team. Los Angeles should have been an easier dispatch than it was, and a 3-0 lead even over a team like Detroit should also be so.
Instead, they have drawn out this series by failing to start fast enough in one game, close well enough in the other, and to miss another four power plays to drop to a preposterous 2 for 26 at home in that category on the postseason.
Game 6 will be on the road, if that helps at all. And barring a return to the form that got the Sharks here to begin with, dont bet there wont be a Game 7, either. In a very very tense building.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.