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.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.