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Sharks take 2-1 series lead over Red Wings on Cheechoo's late goal

The Sharks finally figured out how to escape their midgame malaise when coach Ron Wilson shuffled all four of his lines, while Jonathan Cheechoo redoubled his efforts on his aching knee. And Joe Thornton kept doing exactly what he's done all spring: patiently make life miserable for San Jose's opponents.

Cheechoo scored a power-play goal with 6:21 to play, and the Sharks came from behind for a 2-1 victory Monday night in Game 3 of their second-round series.

"Sometimes it takes half a game to figure out how you're going to crack the other team," Wilson said.

Though Thornton added only one assist to his team-high 10 points in the post-season, his fingerprints - and fist prints, occasionally - were all over a gutsy victory by the Sharks, who took a 2-1 lead in the second-round series.

"Joe sets the tone out there, and we follow him and what he does," said Cheechoo, who scored in his second straight game after failing to find the net in the Sharks' first six post-season contests. "He's physical, he's the hardest worker, and he's a great passer. We kept working hard, and we got it turned around in the second part of the game."

Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night, with Game 5 back in Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in another standout effort for the Sharks, who jumped ahead in the best-of-seven series in yet another tight, well-played game between tested playoff foes.

Ryane Clowe scored the tying goal and added an assist on the winner by Cheechoo, who was injured by a knee-on-knee hit in San Jose's first playoff game against Nashville. Thornton thought the game turned when Wilson changed his line combinations, reminding everybody of the game's importance.

"We play with so many different lines during the regular season that it doesn't matter who we play with," said Thornton, whose lengthy shifts left him puffing when he finally got to the bench. "We had just a couple of good shifts, and when you get two or three good shifts in a row, it boosts your bench."

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored a power-play goal and Dominik Hasek stopped 25 shots for the top-seeded Red Wings, who acknowledged they lost the second half of the game by a narrow margin.

"They got a lot of pressure, and we were almost standing around," said Lidstrom, who hadn't found the net since the first two games of the Red Wings' first-round series against Calgary. "When they get momentum like they did, we have to play stronger defence. I thought we were guilty of taking penalties. It's tough to keep our lines going when we're taking a lot of penalties."

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.

"Once they scored, they were better than us at that point," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "They flipped it in and beat us to the puck, and we turned it over more. It was a flip of the first 30 minutes. That's how I expect this series to go. It's going to continue to be a battle."

And Thornton just kept wearing away on the Wings. His relentless pressure forced a Detroit penalty in the third period, and Kyle McLaren's slap shot rebounded directly to Cheechoo, who held the puck before he flipped it past a sprawled Hasek.

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.

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: San Jose's power play dropped to 4-for-42 in the post-season and got booed in the second period. The Sharks led the NHL in the category for much of the regular season. ... 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.



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