The Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom line accumulated eight points in a convincing 4-1 Detroit victory Saturday that gave it a 3-2 lead in the NHL Western Conference semifinal.
While Detroit’s ace forwards each scored a goal, San Jose’s top unit of Jonathan Cheechoo-Joe Thornton-Milan Michalek managed a big fat zero on the scoresheet.
Mikael Samuelsson also scored for the Red Wings, while Marcel Goc scored for San Jose.
The series resumes in California on Monday night.
Mathieu Schneider, the overtime hero for Detroit in Game 4 last Wednesday, injured a forearm during his third shift and couldn’t continue. Nick Lidstrom got an even heavier workload than usual, and he was outstanding.
San Jose scored first for the fourth time in the series, and Goc’s shot was one that Dominik Hasek should have stopped. The shot was taken from beyond the circle to Hasek’s right and he appeared startled that the German centre dared test him from that distance. The puck whizzed past him at 4:53.
Hasek got his left shoulder in the path of a Curtis Brown shot two minutes later to keep the Sharks from doubling their lead. Evgeni Nabokov had an easy time of it at the other end during the opening 20 minutes as San Jose had a 6-2 edge in scoring chances.
The Red Wings rallied, as they have throughout the series, and Zetterberg tied it 3:10 into the second period. Holmstrom did most of the work. Lidstrom let go a blue-line blast and Holmstrom coralled a bouncing puck in heavy traffic on Nabokov’s doorstep. Instead of trying to shoot himself, he slid the puck across the crease and Zetterberg shovelled it into the open side of the net.
The Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Zetterberg line was a constant threat.
Hasek made a big save on Michalek to keep San Jose from regaining a lead, and Datsyuk then jumped on a Nabokov blunder to give Detroit a 2-1 edge. Nabokov was 20 feet in front of his net trying to make a pass when Datsyuk knocked the puck out of the air, skated around the Kazakh and tucked it into the open net at 16:13 for his team-high fifth goal of the playoffs.
Emotions were running high. Andreas Lilja nailed Mike Grier against the side boards as the second period ended. Craig Rivet grabbed Zetterberg and the two toppled to the ice with Rivet on top. When they got up, Holmstrom grabbed Rivet and those two went down. The Sharks wound up with a power play for the start of the third period, but they couldn’t do a thing on their fourth manpower advantage of the afternoon.
When Detroit got its third chance, Samuelsson made it 3-1 at 3:46 with a slapshot from the circle to the left of Nabokov.
Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen creamed big defenceman Kyle McLaren in a corner a couple of minutes later as the Red Wings continued to outhit the Sharks.
Holmstrom made it 4-1 at 6:14 with Grier off for goaltender interference. The Swede positioned himself between McLaren and Rivet to redirect in a Zetterberg pass from behind the net.
The Sharks were losing their cool. Thornton threw a shoulder into Kirk Maltby after a whistle and was sent off for roughing at 7:16. They weren’t going to mount a rally from the penalty box.
After this lopsided win, it’s difficult to imagine the Red Wings allowing this series to slip away now.
Notes: Detroit had a 33-24 shots advantage . . . Detroit was 2-for-5 and San Jose was 0-for-6 on power plays before further penalties were assessed following a Sharks-instigated melee with 28 seconds left . . . San Jose F Bill Guerin remained at home recovering from a deep cut on the right side of his face near the mouth after taking a puck in the face in Game 4 . . . Because of the 2 p.m. ET start, San Jose players had their pre-game meal served to them beginning at 7:30 a.m. . . . Going into Game 5, the Sharks had the lead for 136:31 in the series. The Red Wings led for 22:24 . . . On the plus-minus chart, Johan Franzen led Detroit with a plus 7 and Joe Thornton led San Jose with a plus 6 going into Game 5. Todd Bertuzzi’s minus 2 was worst among Red Wings, while Patrick Marleau was a minus 4 for the Sharks . . . All-time leaders in playoff goals by defencemen: Paul Coffey 59, Denis Potvin 56, Ray Bourque 41, Al MacInnis 39, Lidstrom 38.