SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Pavelski got the San Jose Sharks off to a fast start in the game – and for a change, a playoff series.
Pavelski scored the first of three goals in a 1:19 span in the first period and added a second on the power play early in the third to lead San Jose to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night in Game 1 of the second-round series.
Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi added first-period goals of their own to help the Sharks end a string of four straight home losses in series openers.
“We just got the early jump – a couple quick goals bang bang,” Setoguchi said. “It’s a little bit of a buzz-killer for them. We wanted to jump early. We were ready to go.”
The Sharks were the more rested team having had four days off since knocking off Colorado in six games. The Red Wings opened the series less than 48 hours after winning Game 7 in the first round at Phoenix but showed no signs of fatigue.
Game 2 will be Sunday night in San Jose.
“It was a good game and it’s going to be a good series,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t play poorly, they just shot it to the net and we made a couple of mistakes.”
After breaking out to a 3-0 lead, the Sharks entered the third period ahead by only one goal. But with Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula in the penalty box to open the third, Pavelski made it 4-2 when he beat Jimmy Howard with a shot from the side of the net 50 seconds into the period.
“We needed to score that goal,” said Dan Boyle, who got his third assist of the night on that goal. “If we don’t score, it could have changed the momentum of the game. That was a huge goal on the 5-on-3 there.”
The Red Wings were upset about the first penalty, claiming Franzen was hit with a high stick before being called for a trip.
Brian Rafalski got it back to a one-goal game a few minutes later when he converted off a blind pass from Pavel Datsyuk.
Howard turned away numerous good chances on a power play midway through the third. But the Red Wings were unable to get the equalizer on their own power play right after that and Evgeni Nabokov stopped a late flurry in front of the net to preserve the lead in the closing seconds. Detroit finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
“No lead is safe, especially against them,” Nabokov said. “They weren’t going away. They were coming and they were coming. But we stood our ground.”
San Jose hadn’t taken a 1-0 series lead since winning in Detroit three years ago. But the Red Wings came back to win that second-round series in six games. That was just one of many recent playoff disappointments for the Sharks, who have the second best regular season record to Detroit over the past five years but haven’t made it past the second round.
Nothing would help the Sharks shed their label of playoff underachievers more than knocking off the two-time defending Western Conference champion Red Wings, who are viewed by many as the favourites in this series against the top-seeded Sharks despite finishing fifth in the conference.
“We won the first game, but that’s pretty much all it is,” Boyle said. “I know I’m Debbie Downer sometimes. That’s it. We won Game 1. There’s so much work left to be done.”
The Sharks were without their leading goal scorer in the regular season as Patrick Marleau was scratched because of an illness. He is day to day.
But San Jose has been carried this post-season by Pavelski’s line with Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe, instead of the gold medal trio of Marleau, Heatley and Joe Thornton.
The Sharks got production from both lines in Game 1. They put together their fastest flurry of three goals ever in a playoff game midway through the first period.
Pavelski started the spree when he beat Howard with a wrist shot from the slot on a power play, continuing his strong post-season after scoring five goals in the first round.
The Sharks then got a goal from a player who hadn’t produced yet in the playoffs when Heatley knocked in a pass from Thornton 56 seconds later. Before the fans had time to stop celebrating, Setoguchi picked up a loose puck in the slot and beat Howard 23 seconds after that to make it 3-0.
“They got a quick jump on us,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “The first goal came on a power play and then we turned the puck over and they made a nice play from behind the net. They got the headstart. We battled back but could never catch up. We played a solid game.”
The three goals in 1:19 were the fastest ever for the Sharks, beating the 2:02 they needed in Game 3 against Calgary two years ago. But in a potentially bad omen, San Jose lost that game to the Flames 4-3. They hung on this time, despite allowing the Red Wings to cut it to 3-2 on goals by Cleary and Franzen.
NOTES: Lidstrom played his first game as a 40-year-old. He scored two goals in Game 7 against Phoenix on Tuesday and turned 40 Wednesday. … Cleary was helped off late in the second period when he collided with teammate Justin Abdelkader and then got kneed in the head by Sharks captain Rob Blake while falling to the ice. He returned in the third period. … Heatley had no goals in nine career regular season games against Detroit before converting in his first post-season meeting.