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Sharks take dramatic Game 7
Marleau answers critics with game winning goal
5/12/11 - By Mike Lee -

All the drama and suspense of the Sharks Game 7 date with the Detroit Red Wings came to a head on Thursday night, and it couldn't have been more intense. When the smoke cleared, San Jose finds itself preparing for the Western Conference Finals series with the Vancouver Canucks, after taking a wild 3-2 decision over the Red Wings. The Sharks silenced some of their critics by knocking off a persistent Red Wings hockey club, scoring clutch goals and getting another monster performance from goaltender Antti Niemi.

Much maligned centerman, Patrick Marleau, had something to say as well, scoring the game winning goal in the 3rd period. The target of some harsh criticism by former teammate Jeremy Roenick, Marleau delivered one of the biggest goals of his career to ensure San Jose moved on.

He punched home a puck that slipped through Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard's pads at 12:13 of the 3rd period, pushing the Sharks lead to two goals. Marleau jettisoned the monkey that's been parked on his back for the last two weeks with a resounding fist pump after scoring his big goal.

"Patty has been through an awful lot and this year is no different than any other year," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "Patty and Jumbo (Joe Thornton) become the lightning rods and if it doesn't go well then people question them. The way we played Marleau in the series and the amount of minutes that he got, we believe in him immensely"

It was just another day at the office for Marleau. His demeanor following the game was no different than Game 5, when his defensive gaffs cost the Sharks a chance to end the series.

"It felt good," said Marleau in his even keeled tone. "Hope there's a lot more of those."

You can say that again.

This wasn't any opponent. This was a Red Wings team that reeled off three straight wins and was looking to become on of only three teams to comeback from an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series.

"You're going to have moments when teams are going to come at you," Marleau added. "You have to have the composure to settle things down, relieve pressure and get it to the other end and get your game going. They did a great job. They came at us with everything they had." Composure was the name of the game after a gritty Red Wings roster scratched and clawed their way back into the game at every opportunity. Marleau's goal turned into the game winner because Detroit's all-world forward Pavel Datsyuk scored less than 2 minutes after Marleau's tally to cut the Sharks lead to a single goal.

San Jose jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a high intensity 1st period.

Some of that intensity led to banged up players. Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi was knocked out of the game with a hit along the boards in front of the Sharks penalty box.

Jonathan Ericsson was sent off for holding at 11:08 of the opening period, after he interfered with Torrey Mitchell along the end boards behind the Detroit goal.

Devin Setoguchi converted on the ensuing power play, setup by a no-look pass from Joe Thornton. Parked in the right corner, Thornton kept his eyes locked on Dan Boyle who had fed him the puck from the right point. With Detroit's defenders cheating toward Thornton, he whipped a pass diagonally through the slot to Setoguchi at the left dot. Setoguchi one-timed the pass past Howard, scoring his 6th goal of the playoffs.

Back in the lineup after missing Game 6, Ryane Clowe earned a 2 minute rest for roughing after he ran into Howard on the Sharks next drive up the ice. The Sharks penalty kill came up big, stopping all four Red Wing chances with the man-advantage.

"I felt good on the ice," Clowe said in response to his decision to play after suffering his undisclosed injury in Game 6. "I knew this morning right away that I was going to play tonight."

Thornton almost put the Sharks up by two goals on that Red Wings power play, after catching the Red Wings power play unit deep and creating a 2-on-1 chance with Dany Heatley. Thornton drove to the net, but elected to drop the puck back to Heatley, who fired a shot into Howard's mid section.

Logan Couture didn't miss on his opportunity, which came late in the period. Typically flawless Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg made an ill-advised clearing pass from the right corner, but didn't get enough on the puck. Couture intercepted the pass near the bottom of the right circle and roofed a shot past Howard for the 2-0 Sharks lead.

Detroit turned up the heat on San Jose in the 2nd period, out-shooting the Sharks 17-6 in the period. Datsyuk partially impaired the mounting pressure after his pick on Ryane Clowe was called for interference at 10:45 of the period. San Jose best chance on the following power okay was Clowe's point-blank one-time shot from the slot that Howard denied.
BR> Niemi was equal to the task, stopping 38 shots. One of those saves came on a 2-on-1 break by the Red Wings, that ended with Niemi standing up Darren Helm who tried a cut-back move before pumping a shot on net from the low slot.

The Sharks netminder wouldn't be so lucky a minute later after the Red Wings created yet another odd-man break. Zetterberg capped the rush with a pretty backhand shot that lifted over Niemi's left shoulder.

Detroit lost another key role player when Dan Cleary was injured on a collision with teammate Jiri Hudler at the 14:12 mark. Hudler caught Cleary's head with a hip as both players were off-balance. Cleary lay motionless on the ice for several minutes, before he was helped to the locker room by the Red Wings training staff.

Sensing the momentum shifting in Detroit's favor, McLellan used his timeout with 4:28 left in the period, after the Sharks were called for an icing. The Sharks bench boss may have made the decision after processing a similar situation in Game 6 that led to two quick Detroit goals.

The ice was clearly tilted toward Niemi during the last 4 minutes of the period. San Jose had trouble clearing their own zone, but survived a mad rush by the Red Wings.

"I think this was probably one of the hardest (series)," Niemi said after the game. "A little bit different, after leading 3-0 and then coming back to 3-3.That's new. Probably one of the toughest series."

The Sharks biggest test came over the final 20 minutes of play. Having blown 3rd period leads in there last two games, the Sharks looked to prevent the same from happening again. They didn't help themselves by taking a pair of key penalties.

A too many men call at 7:33 put the Sharks in a precarious position, but Niklas Kronwall helped San Jose's cause by taking a slashing penalty 74 seconds into the infraction.

After Marleau staked the Sharks to a 2-goal lead, Datsyuk answered with a long backhand shot that seemed to have eyes. The 25-foot shot from the right side, sailed over Niemi, catching the top left corner of the net.

"That backhand was nasty," Clowe said. "I don't know he pulled that one out, but of course he had to do that and make it more interesting."

It looked as if history was about to repeat itself when Mitchell took a poorly-timed slashing penalty with 5:03 to play. San Jose killed the penalty, then hung on for dear life. Detroit pulled Howard with 82 seconds left, but they couldn't get the equalizer.

Datsyuk gave the Sharks one last scare when he raced up ice with 30 seconds left in regulation. The Russian sniper carried the puck up the left wing boards, then ripped a shot that Niemi gloved near his ear.

Helm got one last shot on goal, but Niemi turned it aside for Niclas Wallin to sned it down ice, killing the remaining time to the delight of the delirious sellout crowd.

"We've got to give them credit," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "They're a good team. It was a good series, it was entertaining, it was fast, it was hard for any team to lead the other team. It was just one of those series, it was good."



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
DET 0 1 1 2
SJ 2 0 1 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Setoguchi 6 (Thornton, Boyle), 12:20, (pp). 2, SJ, Couture 6 (unassisted), 19:01.
2nd period - 3, DET, Zetterberg 3 (Filppula), 13:10.
3rd period - 4, SJ, Marleau 3 (Setoguchi, Boyle), 12:13. 5, DET, Datsyuk 4 (Stuart, Ericsson), 13:59.
Penalties
1st period - Ericsson, DET (holding), 11:08; Clowe, SJ (roughing), 12:30; Vlasic, SJ (tripping), 15:17.
2nd period - Datsyuk, DET (interference), 10:45.
3rd period - Bench, SJ (too many men), 7:33; Kronwall, DET (slashing). 8:47; Mitchell, SJ (slashing), 14:57.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
DET - Howard 30 27
SJ - Niemi 40 38
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
DET 11 17 12 40
SJ 17 6 7 30
Power Play Conversion
DET 0 of 4
SJ 1 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Dan Boyle
Devin Setoguchi
Pavel Datsyuk
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: O'Halloran, Sutherland. Linesmen: Heyer, Murray.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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