SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Red Wings’ road woes continued Thursday night.
After falling behind early, the Sharks scored five straight goals, including a three-goal outburst in the second period, handing the Wings a 5-2 loss at HP Pavilion.
The Wings have now lost five straight road games, scoring just five goals in those losses.
“It’s amazing to me, we played so well at the start, yet we gifted a goal at the end of the period,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
The Wings were the aggressors in the first period, outshooting the Sharks, 17-6, and getting more quality scoring chances. But after ending a recent 0-for-16 power-play drought to take a 1-0 lead, the Wings were burned in the final minute of the period by a short-handed goal.
Detroit came close to grabbing an earlier lead, however Justin Abdelkader’s close-range shot at the midway point of the period somehow stayed out of the net after bouncing off of Antti Niemi’s right pad. Niemi was solid through the game, turning aside shot after shot – 40 Wings’ shots in all.
The bounces went the right way for the Wings on the game’s first power play, but after that, everything pretty much favored the Sharks, who have now defeated the Wings in five consecutive regular-season games, including a 4-2 decision at Joe Louis Arena last month.
The silver lining for the Wings was that they manage to break through on the power play, scoring not once, but twice on six opportunities. Niklas Kronwall got the Wings’ first power play tally in four games when he fired a slap shot from the point that bounced off of Niemi, over the goalie’s head and across the goal line at 17:23 of the first.
The first period seemingly belonged to the Wings who clearly outplayed the Sharks through large stretches of the opening 20-minutes, with the one exception – the final half minute. That’s when the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski tied the score on a short-handed goal with 12-seconds left.
“I thought we did play well before they scored,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s just something you have to put behind you. After the first period you have to come in (to the dressing room) and regroup and get ready for the second. I don’t think we responded real well in the second period.”
Before Pavelski’s goal – his team-leading 10th of the season – the Wings’ power play had clicked. The Sharks’ goal came on a communication breakdown by the Wings after San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot the puck down the ice. From there Sharks captain Joe Thornton out-raced everyone to the loose puck behind the Wings’ net and flipped a backhand pass to Pavelski who beat Jimmy Howard to the glove side from the low slot.
As they’ve done all season, the Sharks flexed their second-period muscle, scoring three times to take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission. San Jose now has 26 second-period goals, while limiting opponents to 11 goals.
The play of the game came in two stages that were initiated by Thornton. The Sharks’ captain made a heck of a back-checking play in his own zone when he prevented Henrik Zetterberg from getting a shot off, skating up behind the Detroit forward and lifting his stick as he readied a slap shot. From there Thornton started a 3-on-1 break that ended with him beating Howard with a hard wrist shot from the right face-off circle that put the Sharks ahead, 2-1.
“It was a good play, a good back-check,” Zetterberg said. “I didn’t see him. (Danny) Cleary made a pass to me. I tried to deke and go around, he took the puck and turned around and scored a goal.”
Three minutes later, the Sharks were up 3-1 when Vlasic earned his third point of the night by converting a Wings’ turnover along the goal line. He skated behind the Wings’ net and beat Howard on a wrap-around the right post at 12:48. Vlasic ended up with a career-best four-point effort.
The Sharks continued to hustle in their defensive zone, which paid another big dividend when Torrey Mitchell send a break-out pass through the neutral zone to Jamie McGinn, whose shot trickled past Howard ever so slowly, rolling to the left of the left post. But Vlasic hurried behind the net and sent a blind pass into the slot where Mitchell blasted a shot past Howard.
“They scored on a couple of turnovers where we had the puck,” Lidstrom said. “We had guys back in our own zone, but we weren’t turning our heads, we weren’t looking behind us, and the puck was in the back of our net. We’re making those small mental mistakes and they’re scoring on us.”
Howard, who made 17 saves on 21 shots, did not play in the third period, giving way to backup goalie Ty Conklin, who last played Oct. 25 at Columbus.
San Jose capped the scoring when Brad Winchester wristed a shot that beat Conklin between the legs at 9:32 of the third. It was Winchester’s first goal of the season.
The Wings got their second power-play goal when Cleary knocked home a rebound for his second power-play tally of the season. He led all skaters with nine shots.
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