2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 1 Recap
Western Conference Semifinals Game 1 - San Jose 2, Detroit 1 (OT) – Sharks lead series, 1-0
It felt a lot like 2010 on Friday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose. It took only one game for the San Jose Sharks to re-create the vibe they generated in the second round of the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings.
Benn Ferriero, a minor-leaguer who had played only one NHL game since February 5 and who had scored just seven goals in 57 career NHL games, scored at 7:03 of overtime to lift the Sharks to a riveting and exhilarating victory over the visiting Wings in Silicon Valley. The second seed didn’t just draw first blood against its opponent from Michigan; the Sharks repeated what they did to the Wings at this stage of the 2010 NHL postseason.
One year ago, the Sharks dusted off the Wings in five games, and they did so because they found third-period magic in two of their four conquests, coming from behind to deal Detroit a pair of staggering setbacks. This was particularly the case in Game 2 of the 2010 West semifinals in San Jose. Joe Pavelski, the man who emerged on the scene in last year’s playoffs for the Sharks, tied that contest with a third-period goal, leading a comeback that gave San Jose a 2-0 series lead and a boatload of momentum heading to Detroit for Game 3. That comeback fueled San Jose’s confidence and allowed a very talented team to believe in itself.
One year later, it’s as though nothing has changed. With San Jose failing to score a goal in the first 50 minutes of play, Pavelski once again rode to the rescue by making a spectacular play.
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With 9:38 left in the third period and Detroit holding a 1-0 lead, the Wings – on the penalty kill after Todd Bertuzzi took a boarding penalty – allowed San Jose’s Joe Thornton a modest shot from the face-off circle. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard made the pad stop, and the puck fluttered into the air to the right of the net. Pavelski, with his stick raised, chopped at the puck the way a tennis player might hit a hard slice backhand on a grass court. Pavelski’s hand-eye coordination was perfect, and the Sharks’ Mister Clutch batted the rubber past Howard, who had no chance on the play. San Jose, which had dominated the second period but had nothing to show for it, was able to gain the tying tally after Detroit carried the play for much of the third, only to cede a costly penalty at the wrong time. Howard shrugged off that goal and continued to make a series of saves – 44 before the night was over – but when overtime arrived, luck was on the Sharks’ side, and the fortuitous postseason march of the second seed continued.
Ferreiro flipped an unthreatening shot from the left boards right after Detroit finished killing off a four-minute high-sticking double-minor to Justin Abdelkader. The shot was a medium-pace offering that Howard measured. However, something strange happened: Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart left his stick in the shooting lane, and the puck deflected off Stuart’s stick to the ice, right in the five-hole area Howard left open. The puck found the back of the net, and in a heartbeat, San Jose had won its fourth overtime game of these playoffs in as many outings. The Sharks are playing just well enough to squeeze out overtime victories, while the Wings recalled a moment all too similar to their experience in San Jose last May.
Will the Sharks continue to make third-period comebacks and win overtime games? If they do, they’re going to become the next version of the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, who seemingly won an overtime game every other time they took the ice in that year’s postseason run.
Needless to say, the 1993 Habs were Stanley Cup champions. The San Jose Sharks would love to attain that distinction. They’re headed in the right direction after a Game 1 in which the fates smiled on them.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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