Sharks Remain in First Place

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

Milan Michalek scored the tiebreaking goal on a breakaway with 9:42 to play, and the San Jose Sharks stayed on top of the Western Conference with a dynamic 6-5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Captain Patrick Marleau added another breakaway goal for the
Sharks with 6:36 left, and Ryane Clowe contributed a career-high
four assists to San Jose's second win in three meetings this season
with Detroit, the defending Stanley Cup champions and the
presumptive favorite in the West.

San Jose moved back atop the overall NHL standings with 71
points - ahead of Boston - after this meeting of the conference's
top two teams, who were separated by just one point entering the
night.

And the matchup was every bit as good as the teams' lofty
records and burgeoning rivalry portended, with more lead changes
than an average NBA game while both clubs traded clutch goals and
big hits with equal vigor.

Brian Rafalski scored with 1:56 left for Detroit, but Evgeni
Nabokov made the last of his 29 saves to clinch San Jose's 21st
victory in 24 home games.

Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Christian Ehrhoff and Jonathan Cheechoo
also scored goals for the Sharks, whose 3-2 loss to Calgary on
Thursday night ended their streak of 31 straight regular-season
home games with at least one point, stretching back to last Feb.
14.

Valtteri Filppula, Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen and Henrik
Zetterberg also scored for the Red Wings, who had earned at least
one point in 10 straight games to pull within one point of San
Jose. Detroit held a 4-3 lead late in the second period, but San
Jose tied it on Cheechoo's power-play goal before taking charge in
the third.

San Jose also seemed to gain strength from a major scrum at the
second period's final buzzer in which Sharks All-Star Joe Thornton
demanded to fight Franzen after a messy collision. Franzen didn't
return for the third period because of a lower-body injury, and the
Sharks had a renewed vigor that resulted in two mid-period goals.

Michalek put the Sharks ahead when Detroit defenseman Brad
Stuart surrendered the puck at mid-ice and left no help for Chris
Osgood, who made 35 saves for the Wings. Marleau sneaked behind
Detroit's defense 3 minutes later, accepting Clowe's outstanding
pass and beating Osgood to the stick side for his 24th goal.

But Rafalski skated off the bench and straight into Zetterberg's
pass to pull the Wings within one goal. Detroit failed to tie it on
several chances in the final seconds, sending the Sharks into an
unusually joyous celebration for mid-January.

The Sharks are off to the best start in club history largely by
mimicking the Red Wings, particularly the champs' aggressive,
active offense. San Jose showed off that commitment in the clubs'
first meeting on Oct. 30, a 4-2 victory for the Sharks that led
Detroit coach Mike Babcock to say his team got "Winged" - but the
Red Wings came back with a 6-0 victory over San Jose in Detroit
last month.

The Sharks faced Detroit this time without defensemen Rob Blake
and Brad Lukowich, both out with injuries until after next
weekend's All-Star break. Blake, the 39-year-old veteran who has
revitalized his career, was hit in the face with a deflection off
his own stick against Calgary, but the injury isn't as serious as
the club initially feared.

Pavelski scored midway through the first period on an
otherworldly pass from Michalek, who dangled in the slot before
flipping a no-look backhand past Stuart and two other Red Wings
onto Pavelski's tape on the far side of the net.

Hossa tied it with his 22nd goal during a power play early in
the second period. The Red Wings later killed an 89-second 5-on-3
disadvantage, but Ehrhoff scored with 3 seconds left in the second
penalty to tie it again.

Zetterberg put Detroit back in front again with his 17th goal,
capitalizing on a faceoff - but Cheechoo tied it again with 1:05
left in the second, converting a rebound during another power
play.

Notes:
Sharks coach Todd McLellan was Babcock's assistant for the
previous three years, and the coaches will be back together next
weekend at the All-Star game - though McLellan will be the nominal
boss, thanks to the Sharks' slightly better record.

The clubs' final regular-season meeting is Feb. 25 in Detroit.

Red Wings D Chris Chelios sat out again after playing Thursday night in Los Angeles. Chelios, who turns 47 on Jan. 25, has played in just six
games since returning from injured reserve in mid-December.

Cheechoo's goal was his first since Dec. 29, and just the third
since Oct. 18 for the former Richard Trophy winner.

Ehrhoff's goal was his first since Oct. 18.


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