Cheechoo scored a power-play goal with 6:21 to play, and the Sharks came from behind for a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night in Game 3 of their second-round series.
Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in another standout effort for the Sharks, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with yet another tight, well-played game between tested playoff foes. Ryane Clowe scored the tying goal and added an assist, while Joe Thornton played another dominant game.
But the winner went to Cheechoo, who was injured by a knee-on-knee hit in San Jose’s first playoff game against Nashville. He hadn’t scored a goal in the post-season until finding the net early in Game 2 against Detroit.
He’s playing through pain on every shift – but last season’s NHL goal-scoring champion still has his touch.
After Thornton’s relentless pressure forced a Detroit penalty, the Sharks finally got a break when Kyle McLaren’s slap shot rebounded directly to Cheechoo, who held the puck before he flipped it past a sprawled Dominik Hasek.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored a power-play goal and Hasek stopped 25 shots for the top-seeded Red Wings, who controlled the first 30 minutes at the hostile Shark Tank after splitting the series’ first two games at home.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night, with Game 5 back in Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.
Nabokov shut out the Red Wings in the series opener, but Detroit rallied back with two third-period goals in a 3-2 victory in Game 2 on Saturday, snapping San Jose’s four-game post-season winning streak.
The Sharks were a bit rusty to begin their first home game in 12 days, and Lidstrom capitalized with a power-play goal on a slap shot from the blue-line midway through the first period. The Red Wings captain hadn’t found the net since scoring in each of the first two games of Detroit’s first-round series with Calgary.
San Jose, which jumped to early 2-0 leads in both of the series’ first two games, was in full retreat well into the second period, when the fans booed their team’s inept power play. After leading the league for much of the regular season, San Jose’s power play went 1-of-5 to drop to 4-for-42 in the playoffs.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson shuffled his four lines and played Thornton extensively, leaving him huffing with exhaustion during his rare breaks on the bench – but Thornton rewarded Wilson’s persistence.
The Sharks finally tied it with a rare bit of sustained pressure with 7½ minutes left in the second period. Thornton cycled the puck until it got to Matt Carle for a shot, and Clowe then flicked the rebound into a small space between Hasek’s glove and pads for his fourth goal of a breakout post-season.
Chris Chelios, who played another outstanding defensive game for the Red Wings, participated in his 237th playoff game, passing Mark Messier for second place in NHL history. Patrick Roy played in 247 post-season contests.
Notes: Detroit LW Tomas Holmstrom didn’t make the flight to San Jose while recovering from a left eye injury that kept him out of the series’ first two games. He could appear in Game 4 if he passes an exam. … San Jose replaced LW Mark Bell with rookie C Joe Pavelski, who had appeared in the Sharks’ last four victories. Bell was active in the last two losses. … Sharks RW Bill Guerin, their pricey trade-deadline pickup, has no goals in eight playoff games.