By Christy Hammond
Henrik Zetterberg scored two goals, including one shorthanded, as he led the Detroit Red Wings (40-13-8) to a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks (41-9-9) in the Western Conference showdown. Both teams won their pair of home games in the series, ending the regular season with a 2-2 record for each squad.
There was definitely more excitement in the air at Joe Louis Arena than what you’d see at your average regular season game as this was a battle between the top two teams in the conference and the final outing of the regular season.
The game didn’t quite live up to its billing, but was still a great contest since:
1. Detroit controlled the game
2. Claude Lemieux didn’t really do anything noteworthy
Sure, the fans booed him every time he touched the puck and sometimes just when he was out on the ice. However, Lemieux wasn’t really a physical presence on the ice and finished a minus-one. He did have a couple scoring chances, but that was about it.
Marian Hossa opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:51 in the first period when he wristed a quick shot from the inner bottom of the right faceoff circle. The puck squirted through the goaltender’s five-hole and into the net. Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen earned assists on the goal.
Later in the first period, Ville Leino posted his fifth goal and eighth point in just 11 games when he beat San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabakov at 16:08. Kris Draper went to take the faceoff, a Shark got booted, causing Lemieux to face off against Draper. Drapes won the puck. Later in that play, Kirk Maltby took a shot that bounced off of Nabakov and right to Leino who swatted the puck in mid-air right into the wide open net.
My favorite goal of the game happened at 4:08 in the second period during a Red Wings’ penalty kill. Zetterberg brought the puck into the Sharks’ zone and up the slot before spinning around Christian Ehroff and dumping the puck into the net on his backhand. Draper earned his second assist of the night on the play. Ehroff would avenge himself with a goal of his own just over two minutes later on the power play.
Zetterberg padded Detroit’s lead with a bit of trickery. Hank brought the puck behind the San Jose net looking like he was going to wraparound on the left side. Instead he stopped in the middle and reversed back to the right, sneaking the puck between the post and Nabakov’s left skate. Zetterberg was named first star of the game for his two-goal effort.
Wings goaltender Ty Conklin also had a great game, stopping 34 shots. He has now won 12 straight at the Joe.
All in all, it was an entertaining game and a great win for Detroit. The Wings are now within three points of San Jose, but the Sharks do have two games in hand. Detroit needed to win on Wednesday in order to have a shot at catching San Jose for the Western Conference lead. With the victory, it certainly seems feasible and only emphasizes the importance of home ice should these two teams meet in the postseason.
The Wings stay home to play the LA Kings on Friday evening. Joe Louis Arena will host Petapalooza that night with dogs from the Dearborn Animal Shelter up for adoption in the concourse and a parade of dogs on the ice during the first intermission. There will also be a chance to participate in the 50/50 raffle. Last week’s winner took home more than $2,500 so it’s definitely worth a shot when the proceeds benefit a great cause.