Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

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Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

BOX SCORE

DETROIT, MI Whether the Sharks want to admit it or not, and even though its early in the year, theres still something special about beating the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Against what is perhaps their biggest rival, the Sharks used a breakaway goal by Joe Thornton and then an empty-netter by the captain to claim a 4-2 victory in Detroit - their fourth straight regular season win here. The Sharks remain perfect on their road trip (4-0), and moved two games over .500 for the first time this season (5-3-0).

It was, in all probability, the biggest win of the young season.

Just because they are an elite team and they are competitive, coming in and getting a win does feel nice, said Patrick Marleau, who had a goal and an assist. That said, its always a hard-fought game.

Two good teams just going at it, said Thornton.

The names on the score sheet were familiar ones. Along with the pair from Thornton and one from Marleau, Ryane Clowe scored a power play goal in the second period for the Sharks. Detroits goals came from Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

In a game with two teams that are so narrowly matched, it often comes down to who makes the biggest blunder. Thats what happened to Detroit on Thorntons breakaway goal at 18:18 of the second period that broke a 2-2 tie.

Joe Pavelski played a wrap around pass around the boards from Marleau, and quickly wheeled and found Thornton all alone, streaking down the middle of the ice. Ian White, Dan Cleary and Nicklas Lidstrom all somehow lost track of the Thornton, and he fired it through the five hole of Jimmy Howard for what ended up being the game-winner.

Thornton actually turned around once he received the pass, probably out of shock that he could be left so alone.

I saw Pav grab the puck and I just bolted out, Thornton said. I was a zone and a half away from everybody. I dont know how I got that open.

McLellan joked that he was just happy to see one of the games best passers fire the puck.

It was nice to see Jumbo shoot it, he had nobody to pass to. But he did look behind him, which worried me, said the head coach.

Thornton and Marleau werent the only ones putting up multiple-point nights, though. Marty Havlat registered two more assists, and now has five in four games with the Sharks.

Hes the first San Jose player to register an assist in his first four games with the club since Thornton did it in eight straight in December 2005.

Marty had his best night as a Shark, in my opinion, said McLellan. Very slippery on the ice and very smart with the puck. Logan Couture and Clowe benefited from it. The trust between him and I, and him and his teammates, is growing on a daily basis.

Havlat helped the Sharks even the game in the second period after Zetterberg had given Detroit the lead in the first. On a Sharks power play, Marc-Edouard Vlasic threw the puck towards the slot, and it ended up bounding onto Havlats stick. Havlat quickly backhanded it to his left to an open Clowe, who easily fired in his third goal of the year at 2:10 of the middle frame.

San Jose took its first lead when Marleau outraced former teammate White to a puck that was tossed high into the zone off of the glass by Douglas Murray. Marleau was able to chip the bouncing puck past the glove hand of Jimmy Howard at 7:57 of the second.

Dougie got a play off the glass and out, and just a couple pretty fortunate bounces on my side, said Marleau. Unfortunately for Whitey, it bounced over his stick there. I was just able to get it for a split second and get a shot off.

Holmstrom re-tied the score with a deflection of a shot by Pavel Datsyuk at 14:44 of the second on the power play, but was all Detroit would get past Niemi, who finished with 30 saves.

The Sharks' goalie, making his fifth straight start, was a bit fortunate in the first period when an apparent goal by Holmstrom was waved off as the referee ruled incidental contact. That would have made it 2-0, Red Wings.

Niemi was asked if he thought the call was legitimate, or if he felt the Sharks caught a break.

A little of both, he said. Youve gotta be lucky when you get one waved off.

McLellan made a couple tweaks to his lineup, both before the game and during it. Colin White played after a two-game absence, paired with Justin Braun as the third defense pair.

Forwards Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferreiro and Jamie McGinn did not see the ice at all in the third period, as McLellan shortened his bench. Michal Handzus skated between Brad Winchester and Andrew Murray for the second half of the game.

Halfway through the night I wasnt overly pleased with a couple guys, McLellan explained. I thought they could make a bigger difference in the game, and rewarded some others that were going well. It will allow us to make some changes Saturday, and look at getting some better efforts out of a few people.

That was the lone blemish on the night. For now, mark it down as another win for the Sharks in one of the best matchups the NHL has to offer.

We always enjoy playing them and they always enjoy playing us, and its been a pretty good rivalry over the years, said Thornton.

Odds and ends: Torrey Mitchell and Jim Vandermeer were the scratches for San Jose, but look for Mitchell to get back in the lineup on Saturday against the Islanders Niemi may get the night off on Saturday for the second of back-to-back games. Thomas Greiss has not played since a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Oct. 15. The Sharks won just 20 of 54 faceoffs. San Jose was 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

SAN JOSE – A weekend with no games on the NHL calendar is rare enough. A weekend without any games or practices, though? That’s virtually unheard of in the middle of the season.

But with nothing until Wednesday's home game, and after a stretch of 10 games in 18 days, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer chose to give the players and staff a full Saturday and Sunday off. DeBoer and assistant coach Johan Hedberg were seen quickly scurrying from SAP Center a few short minutes after the game ended, while defenseman Brent Burns had his massive camouflage backpack stuffed to capacity while conducing his postgame media availability.

“It’s packed and ready to go,” Burns said, without going into any detail as to what exactly was in the bag.

DeBoer explained his rationale behind the respite on Friday morning.

“The way [the schedule] laid out after the month we’ve just had – the injuries, the stuff we’ve dealt with – it just made sense. We’ve got another push until the Christmas break after this with a tough schedule. 

“With our travel and the World Cup and everything, it didn’t make sense to come down here and skate when we had a chance to actually recharge mentally and physically.”

Although the team was aware of the break for some time, there’s no question that the Sharks have earned it. As they wake up on Saturday morning (presumably after sleeping in), they find themselves with a three-point cushion in the Pacific Division with a 15-9-1 mark. San Jose has won six of its last seven, including triumphs over perennial contender Chicago, chief rival Los Angeles, and the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal.

Their two longest road trips of the season are also already behind them, including a five-game trip in October and a six-gamer in November.

Joe Pavelski is pleased with what he’s seen so far, despite the challenging circumstances.

“Guys have handled it well,” said the captain. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of rest time, and we’ve found a few different ways to win, especially on nights that it hasn’t been easy. The biggest thing is guys have shown up and played hard. We’ve got a pretty good structure in here, guys are responsible, we’ve found a few goals, and [Martin Jones] gives us a chance every night.”

Joe Thornton said: “It’s been a lot of hockey. It will be nice to get a couple days after this to relax and recover a little bit.”

The schedule will ramp up again in short order. After three games in four nights next week, the Sharks will fly to Toronto and open up a four-games-in-six-days road trip with the Maple Leafs on Dec. 13.

* * *

The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the AHL Barracuda on Saturday morning. Carpenter was a healthy scratch on Friday as Tommy Wingels got back in the lineup. 

It’s likely that the move was made at least partially because the Sharks are up against the salary cap, and that one or both players could return by the time they host the Senators on Wednesday.

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

SAN JOSE – The Sharks continued their hot streak with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in a classic goaltender’s duel Friday night. The three takeaways from the game…

1 – Price, Jones similarities

Martin Jones was the standout star with his 31 saves, but the Sharks had to beat Carey Price on the other end to reward their own goalie. Price entered the night as the NHL leader in save percentage (.947), and third in goals-against average (1.68) and is probably on his way to another Vezina Trophy at the end of the season.

That the game came down to a battle in net was no surprise, as a prescient Pete DeBoer said Friday morning “we have to be prepared to win 2-1.”

There was talk after the game that there are some similarities between the Sharks emerging goaltender and the Canadiens superstar. 

“Actually, we spoke to [Sharks assistant/goaltending coach] Johan Hedberg about that, and he does see a lot of similarities between the two of them,” assistant coach Steve Spott said. “Their mannerisms in the net – they're both very, very calm. Both very quick. And both hockey clubs believe in their goaltenders. It was a great duo on that ice tonight. I think for any fan to see those two goaltenders was pretty special tonight."

Brent Burns, who won the World Cup with Price in September, said: “Very similar. … [Jones is] unflappable. They’re both big, very calm and great positioning. Very similar.”

2 – Strong start

The Sharks knew they were getting the weekend off from practice after the game, with no chance of any late changes as DeBoer and Hedberg were seen quickly departing for getaway flights after the final horn (that’s why Spott handled the postgame media duties). 

At this point in DeBoer’s second season, there seems to be a real trust factor between the coaching staff and the veteran team that no one will start their mini-break early. The Sharks were flying in the first period, jumping all over the Canadiens and seizing a 2-0 lead that Jones helped preserve over the final two frames.

Spott said: “It was good to come out like that and establish that momentum. We know how fast Montreal is and how deep they are up front, and obviously we know Carey Price. It was a good start. We were able to hold onto that."

“Whether you get the days off, you want to play hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “You want to come out [quickly], especially at home, at the starts.” 

3 – Escaping injury

Injuries are always a concern with so many games in so few days, and there were a few scary moments for San Jose.

The Sharks lost Kevin Labanc for a stretch in the first period after the rookie went hard into the boards on a hit by Alexei Emelin, but he came back in the second after he apparently went through some concussion tests.

Spott said: “He took a good hit. He came back. He went in and had to obviously do some [head injury] protocol.”

David Schlemko’s situation looked much worse, as the defenseman limped off of the ice and up the tunnel in the second period with what looked like a right leg or ankle problem. He returned midway through the third, though.

“It didn't look good when we saw it on video, but thankfully I think we dodged a bullet there,” Spott said.