SAN JOSE, Calif. - In a series filled with some of hockey's biggest stars and most accomplished players, it was someone who spent almost the entire second half of the season in the minors who came up with the biggest play—on his birthday no less.
Little-used Benn Ferriero scored 7:03 into overtime of his playoff debut on a deflected goal that gave the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
"You always have to be ready," said Ferriero, who provided the perfect capper to his 24th birthday. "You never know when they are going to call on you. You go through practice and do everything you can to be ready to play. When your number gets called you have to be ready."
Ferriero's shot hit off Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart's stick and got past Jimmy Howard for the game-winner just seconds after the Red Wings had killed off a four-minute penalty. Stuart slammed his stick to the ice in disgust after the goal, as the Red Wings again fell behind in their series to the Sharks.
Ferriero has just seven goals in 57 career regular-season games and played only once in the NHL after Feb. 5 this season.
"You never know who the hero is going to be," Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle said. "You never know where it's going to come from. That's just a prime example of just shooting, just putting it at the net in overtime. You never know what's going to happen."
Joe Pavelski scored the tying goal on the power play in the third period for San Jose. Antti Niemi made 24 saves as the Sharks won their fourth overtime game of this post-season.
Nicklas Lidstrom scored in the first period for Detroit the day after his 41st birthday. Howard made 44 saves, including three during Justin Abdelkader's double minor for high-sticking, but had little chance on Ferriero's deflected game-winner.
"It's very disappointing, especially after leading for most of the game," Lidstrom said. "We were able to kill off that four-minute penalty in overtime. They kept coming at us; our guy was coming out of the box and it was still a scramble in our zone. This is what happens in the playoffs. You're going to have those momentum swings."
Game 2 is Sunday in San Jose.
After being stymied for two-plus periods by Howard, the Sharks finally broke through midway through the third on their third power play of the night with Todd Bertuzzi out for boarding Pavelski.
Joe Thornton took a big shot from just inside the blue-line that Howard stopped, but Pavelski batted the rebound down out of midair with his stick and into the net to tie it with 9:38 to go with San Jose's first power-play goal in four games this post-season.
Pavelski played a big part in San Jose's series win over Detroit a year ago, scoring four goals in the first two games, including the tying tally in the third period of Game 2. That was one of two third-period comebacks in that series for the Sharks, who did it again in the opener this year.
The Red Wings killed another power play later in the third and withstood a late flurry from San Jose, with Howard making a tough pad save on a deflection by Dany Heatley to send the game to overtime.
"It was not enough," Howard said. "All that matters is winning. I felt good out there and I saw a lot of the shots."
Led by an energetic shift by the line of Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe and Heatley, the Sharks dominated the play in the first half of the second period but were unable to score. Howard made a tough stop on Pavelski and helped kill a power play as Detroit maintained the lead despite being outshot 16-2 in the first 10 minutes of the second period.
Detroit allowed two shots the rest of the period and had chances to extend the lead but one shot rolled along the goal line and away from the net, and Niemi stopped Jiri Hudler on a wrist shot in the closing minute.
This marked the third time in five seasons that these teams met in the second round, with each team winning once.
The Red Wings were well-rested, with eight full days off since their sweep of Phoenix in the first round. That's in stark contrastto their one day off a year ago after a seven-game series against the Coyotes, which was a factor in them falling behind 3-0 in the series.
The time off also allowed two of Detroit's most potent players to heal from injuries that kept them out of action for at least part of the first round. Johan Franzen, who led the team with 28 goals in the regular season, has recovered from an injured left ankle that forced him to miss Game 4 against the Coyotes. Leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg is also back after missing the entire first round with an injured left knee.
There was a feeling-out process early, with both teams seemingly wary of making an early mistake. San Jose killed off an early power play before the Red Wings broke through midway through the period when Pavel Datsyuk got the puck on the boards and fed Lidstrom in the slot for a slap shot that beat Niemi to the glove side.
Notes: The last player to get his first playoff goal in OT of his first playoff game was San Jose's Niko Dimitrakos, in Game 1 of the first round against St. Louis in 2004. ... Detroit coach Mike Babcock turned 48 on Friday.