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Patience pays off
Sharks take a 2-1 serie lead
4/30/07 - by Mike Lee

Stealing a page out of the Detroit Red Wing's playoff plan, the Sharks came back from an early deficit to take Game 3 the Western Conference Quarter Final match up. After blowing a 2-goal lead and the win in Game 2 in Detroit on Saturday, the Sharks returned the favor by winning 2-1 at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Jonathan Cheechoo scored the game winner with 6:41 left in regulation to give San Jose a 2-1 series lead.

Cheechoo's goal was a microcosm of the game. Wait patiently until the Red Wings expose a weak spot, then strike. After Kyle McLaren rifled a shot from the point off Red Wings's goaltender Dominik Hasek, Cheechoo gathered in the rebound just outside the crease along the right post then held his shot long enough to force Hasek to commit. The Sharks forward then slid across the top of the crease while Hasek flailed at the puck while flat on his back, then flipped it into the Detroit goal for a power play tally.

San Jose trailed 1-0 midway through the 1st period after Niklas Lidstrom scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs on a power play after Bill Guerin was sent to the box for hooking. Lidstrom pumped a 40-foot shot past Evgeni Nabokov from the top of the left circle, finding the upper right corner of the net.

Detroit out-shot San Jose 16-7 in the period, due in part to three Sharks penalties, including a pair by defenseman Craig Rivet. The Red Wings turned to a more active approach on offense, which worked in their favor for the first half of the game. The Sharks abandoned the defensive alignment which allowed to own the neutral zone the first two games of the series, allowing the Red Wings to create more chances offensively.

"After the 1st period we talked to the defense about them being too passive," said Sharks head coach Ron Wilson. We were giving the Red Wings a lot of room in the neutral zone and giving our blueline away. A team like that, they're no different than us. You back off us and you're going to get picked apart."

An air of uneasiness filled the arena, as the fast start by Detroit was something the sellout crowd wasn't expecting. Red Wings center Valtterri Filppula almost made it 2-0, when he raced up open ice then snapped a 20-foot shot that Nabokov snared with a wave of the glove hand.

The Sharks finally got things in gear midway through the 2nd period after Wilson started to shuffle his lines. With a persistent dose of forechecking and pressure in the Detroit zone, San Jose finally started to wear down the Red Wings. Ryane Clowe tied the game at 12:43 with a backhand shot from 8 feet out that slipped past Hasek's outstretched left pad. Matt Carle started the sequence by throwing the puck on net from the high slot, then Clowe did the rest.

Between both my and Cheech's goal, I don't think either one reached the back of the net," Clowe cracked after the game. "I actually tried to lift it over his pad and I think the space that it went in was just wide enough to fit a puck. I kind of whiffed on it, bit I'll take it."

The Sharks would continue to soften up the Wings throughout the 3rd period with big hits and relentless pressure when ever the Red Wings defensemen gathered the puck deep in their own zone.

Joe Thornton led the way with 7 hits in the game. Former Shark forward Mikael Samuelsson was a frequent target of Thornton's wrath. He would land two big hits on the power play, which kept the puck in the Detroit zone.

"Joe was easily the best player on the ice," said Wilson. Big hits. The play that sticks out in my mind right now is with 20 seconds to go he got back and Datsyuk had beaten a defensmen, and Joe was right there back-checking, knocking him down and the puck into the corner. Those are little things that often go missed. I thought he was unbelievable tonight."

After Cheechoo put the Sharks up, San Jose would be put to the test after McLaren was sent off for interference with just under 6 minutes remaining in the contest.

Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi would then simplify things for the Sharks by taking a ill-timed tripping penalty with 2:48 left. Detroit head coach Mike Babcock would pull Hasek with less than a minute remaining, but the Sharks would hold.

We felt pretty good out there after the 2nd period," said Thornton. "We pretty much carried the play after the second. We felt confident. We felt like we going to score the next goal and win the game. It was a god time for this team."


Joe Pavelski was back in the lineup, taking Mark Bell's spot on the roster. Bell was a -3 in San Jose's 3-2 loss to the Red Wings in Game 2. Clowe and Carle are now tied for first in points among all NHL rookies in the playoffs (5).

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1 2 3 T
DET 1 0 0 1
SJ 0 1 1 2
1st period - 1, DET, Lidstrom 3 (Samuelsson, Cleary), 11:13, (pp).
2nd period - 2, SJ, Clowe 4 (Carle, Thornton), 12:43.
3rd period - 3, SJ, Cheechoo 2 (McLaren, Clowe), 13:19, (pp).
1st period - Rivet, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 3:05; Guerin, SJ (hooking), 9:58; Lilja, DET (hooking), 18:14; Rivet, SJ (high sticking), 19:06.
2nd period - Lang, DET (interference), 5:32; Bertuzzi, DET (elbowing), 17:44.
3rd period - Draper, DET (holding), 11:38; McLaren, SJ (interference), 14:03; Bertuzzi, DET (tripping), 17:12.
  Shots Saves
DET - Hasek 27 25
SJ - Nabokov 30 29
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
DET 16 7 7 30
SJ 7 7 13 27
Power Play Conversion
DET 1 of 4
SJ 1 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Thornton
Ryane Clowe
Evgeni Nabokov
Referees: Kevin Pollock, Rob Shick. Linesmen: Derek Amell, Pierre Racicot.

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