Sharks continue recent mastery of Red Wings with 5-2 win

SAN JOSE,Calif. (The Hockey Writers)  Enjoy one of hockey’s most spirited rivalries while you can.

In the Todd McLellan era, the San Jose Sharks are now 16-10 against the Detroit Red Wings, including five wins in the last six regular-season games after Thursday’s 5-2 win at HP Pavilion.

Thursday’s game didn’t start out like it was going to be dominated by San Jose. Detroit out-shot the home-standing Sharks 17-6 in the first 20 minutes, but, thanks to a short-handed goal  by Joe Pavelski with 12 seconds left before the intermission, the teams skated off the ice tied at 1. Jason Demers was in the box for the second time in just over two minutes; his first trip in, Niklas Kronwall “beat” Antti Niemi with a shot from the slot that bounced off Niemi, then off Dan Boyle’s back, and back over Niemi.

“We didn’t draw it up this way,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, “we’d be kidding ourselves. I think we out-goaltended their team.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the secondary assist on Pavelski’s shortie, which the Sharks netted 12 seconds into the penalty, rimming the puck behind the Detroit net where Joe Thornton fed a crashing Pavelski in the slot.

“We probably turned (the game) around on the short-handed goal,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “A momentum swing and a chance for us to regroup between periods.”

It was a harbinger of things to come.

The onslaught really picked up in the second period. San Jose peppered Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard with 15 shots in the second period, and three of them found twine in the final 10:06 of the period.

First it was Joe Thornton at the end of a beautiful odd-man rush when Vlasic, who would finish the night +4 with 4 points, threaded a perfect pass to  Logan Couture who faked a shot and got Howard to commit, then flashed a backhand pass across the crease to Thornton, who had a full head of steam. The goal moved Thornton past Jarome Iginla in total points, a battle that should see-saw all season.

“I just back-checked hard,” said Thornton, “that’s what we tried to do, and Pickles and Logan made nice plays, good passes and I was able to find an open net.”

Less than three minutes later, Vlasic did the honors himself with a pretty wraparound goal, then, five minutes later, he had the primary assist on a Torrey Mitchell shot from the slot with 1:42 remaining in the period. On that play, a shot by Jamie McGinn just trickled outside the net after hitting Howard’s pad square, and Vlasic won a race to the puck and backhanded it to a wide-open Mitchell.

“The opportunities I took tonight went in for me,” Vlasic said. “I got a lot of bounces tonight, I don’t always. I got lucky on the faceoff on the first one, but I jumped up into the offense on the others and it worked out pretty well.”

That was enough for Mike Babcock, who put Ty Conklin in net for the third period. The Wings out-shot San Jose again, and scored a second power-play goal off a second rebound from Niemi, who had a very solid night, stopping 40 of the 42 shots he faced.

Each team scored in the final period, with Brad Winchester tallying his first of the season, and Dan Cleary scoring off a rebound on the power play with just over six minutes remaining.

The two points moved the Sharks into a tie with Phoenix for third in the Pacific Division, as the Kings jumped to first place behind their 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim. San Jose next faces Dallas, which dropped into second in the tight division while not playing. The Red Wings road swing continues in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon.