SAN JOSE, Calif. – Pavel Datsyuk is usually the one providing the jaw-dropping, highlight-reel goals for the Detroit Red Wings.
This time, his linemate got into the act.
Henrik Zetterberg batted a puck out of the air from the slot for one of his two goals that helped Detroit get a small token of revenge for last season’s playoff elimination, beating the San Jose Sharks 5-3 Tuesday night.
“Hank’s goal in the air, it’s awesome,” Datsyuk said. “It’s nice to see. I’ve only watched somebody on the other team score a similar goal and I was just, ‘Wow.’ Now I have a first-row seat to see Hank’s.”
Zetterberg added two assists on a night when the ice was far from its best because of a long power outage at HP Pavilion that forced both teams to cancel the morning skate and led to less-than-ideal conditions.
That didn’t seem to bother the Red Wings, who also got goals from Datsyuk, Danny Cleary and Patrick Eaves to beat the Sharks in their first meeting since the playoffs in May.
San Jose won that post-season series in five games against their longtime nemesis in the Western Conference, getting all four wins by one goal in a matchup that was far tighter than the final outcome.
But things haven’t gone so well early this season for the Sharks, mired in the middle of the pack in the conference while the Red Wings have returned to their familiar perch atop the standings.
“They were the better team when it was all said and done,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “They created more quality scoring chances than we did, they forced us to turn the puck over a little bit more, their special teams were a little sharper than ours were. When you add that all up the win goes into their column.”
Jimmy Howard made 25 saves to win for the 27th time in his last 33 regular-season starts. Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski also had two assists for Detroit, which has won four of five and leads the conference with 34 points.
Dany Heatley, Benn Ferriero and Ryane Clowe scored for the Sharks, who now go on a five-game road trip that begins with Heatley’s highly anticipated return to Ottawa on Thursday night. Heatley was dealt to the Sharks before last season after demanding a trade from the Senators.
Zetterberg had the highlight of this game shortly after the end of a Detroit power play. He was standing in the slot when the puck came in a few feet off the ice. He swung his stick and hit the puck cleanly off the post for a goal that likely would have made Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera proud.
“Once in a while you just try to whack it in the net,” Zetterberg said. “It was fun to see it go in.”
The Sharks answered less than two minutes later when Ferriero knocked in a rebound past Howard while falling to the ice to cut Detroit’s lead to 3-2.
The Red Wings added a goal late in the second when Eaves deflected a point shot from Cleary past Antero Niittymaki with 10.6 seconds remaining in the period. Zetterberg scored again midway through the third as the Red Wings cruised to the win.
The Sharks were undermanned, with defencemen Niclas Wallin, Kent Huskins and Jason Demers all sidelined with injuries, as well as forward Devin Setoguchi. The injuries forced San Jose to use three defencemen—Derek Joslin, Justin Braun and Mike Moore—from its minor league team in Worcester.
“We were able to take advantage of their defence tonight,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We knew coming in that would be an issue for them and we spent some minutes in their zone.”
The inexperience showed early in the game. Just 14 seconds after Jamal Mayers went to the penalty box for high-sticking, Cleary got away from Braun and was all alone in front of the net to tip a centring pass from Zetterberg past Niittymaki for the first goal.
Datsyuk then gave Braun, playing his third NHL game, quite a lesson. Datsyuk beat the rookie with a great individual move and then stickhandled past Niittymaki for an easy goal that gave Detroit a 2-0 lead.
“Those guys have been playing together for a long time and I’ve watched them for a long time,” Braun said. “They seem to know where they are going before anyone else does.”
NOTES: Clearyplayed in his 700th career game. … Joe Thornton scored his 500th point with San Jose on the fifth anniversary of his trade from Boston. … The Sharks have not gotten a goal from a defenceman for six straight games.