SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—If the San Jose Sharks maintain this string of impressive victories much longer, they’ll totally lose the element of surprise.
Todd Harvey also scored for the Sharks, who hung on for their third straight win against a first-place team following victories over Vancouver and Colorado. San Jose has won 11 of its last 15, earning at least a point in 13 while surging to a healthy lead in the Pacific Division.
“I can’t remember a better stretch than right now, these last three games,” said defenseman Kyle McLaren, who returned from a seven-game injury absence. “Any time you can beat a team like Detroit, it boosts your confidence. It shows you can compete against the top teams, and you deserve to be there.”
When the season began, almost nobody expected much from the Sharks. They finished 14th in the Western Conference last spring and made no significant additions to their lineup while losing top scorers Owen Nolan and Teemu Selanne.
Instead, the Sharks are chewing up their opponents with speed, discipline and dominant goaltending—and even the Red Wings are impressed.
“It was like a playoff game, with a lot of tight battles and scrums in the corner,” Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. “They’re playing very well. They’re playing with a ton of confidence.”
Detroit captain Steve Yzerman moved into a tie for sixth place on the NHL’s career scoring list with a late goal, but Nabokov was otherwise phenomenal in his first game since his wife, Tabitha, gave birth to their first child last weekend.
Curtis Joseph stopped 22 shots for the Red Wings, who began a five-game road trip with an entertaining, high-energy game against the upstart Sharks. Detroit lost in regulation for just the second time in nine games.
“When you consider the teams that we just beat, it’s certainly gratifying,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “It builds your confidence that you can play against anybody. … I still think we give up too many scoring chances, and there’s a lot of improvement to make … but our record speaks for itself.”
The third period featured an abundance of desperate scoring chances by both teams. Nabokov made several fine saves, particularly while Detroit kept the puck in San Jose’s end for nearly all of the final two minutes.
After the final horn, Wayne Primeau awarded the game puck to Nabokov, who planned to save it for 3-day-old Emily Paige Nabokov.
“He made some good saves,” Joseph said of Nabokov. “He looked sharp. … They look a lot different than last year. They’re skating well and getting good goaltending.”
Detroit’s powerful offense rarely even got Nabokov off his feet, though he lost his shutout bid when Ray Whitney found Yzerman with a pass to the slot with 10 minutes left. It was Yzerman’s 1,701st point, tying Mario Lemieux.
While Yzerman reached another milestone, Brett Hull failed to score for the 19th straight game, extending the longest drought of his career.
Patrick Marleau and Marco Sturm, San Jose’s top two scorers, returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s win at Colorado with minor injuries. But both of the Sharks’ goals were scored by the aggressive, athletic grinders on their bottom two lines.
Harvey scored by skating a complete circle around the net, edging past two defenders to beat Joseph with a quick shot in the first period. It was the third goal for the grinding forward, who went unclaimed on waivers and spent the first 18 games of the season in the minors after a rough training camp.
Late in the second period, Dimitrakos beat Joseph with a one-timer on a sharp pass from Primeau, who also played a strong game.
As usual, hundreds of fans at the Shark Tank wore Detroit jerseys. Theirperiodic chants of “Let’s go Red Wings!” were drowned out by boos, however.
McLaren missed seven games with a rib injury. … The Shark Tank was just short of a sellout despite the holiday and the marquee opponent. … Detroit went 5 1/2 periods between goals in San Jose, following a 3-0 loss last March. … Red Wings D Mathieu Schneider returned from a two-game suspensionfor high-sticking Boston’s Glen Murray.
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