The power play came through for the San Jose Sharks again, when Ian White ripped one past Jimmy Howard in the first period with the man advantage to give them a lead they'd hold through sixty minutes. After Justin Abdelkader was called on a high sticking penalty, Dany Heatley got a hold of the puck and danced around a couple of defenders, before dishing it back to White at the point, who rips one right past Howard for goal number one in the 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in game two of the 2011 NHL Playoff Semifinals.
Early in the third period, Niclas Wallin took the puck up the right side of the ice after a dish from Ryane Clowe and fired a high shot on Howard, which deflected off his shoulder into the air and landed behind him, putting the Sharks up 2-0, it would end up being the game-winning goal, because the Wings would score late in the third. Wouldn't you know it, the goal came on a Detroit power play when Devin Setoguchi was given two minutes for slashing at 13:22. Pavel Datsyuk, who was mostly invisible over the course of the game, illustrated his puck wizardry at the sideboards before feeding Henrik Zetterberg with a beautiful pass across the ice to the weak-side circle. It was almost unfair, as Zetterberg pushes it past Antti Niemi without much issue.
A full two periods of time (that's forty minutes, folks) was spend in the penalty box, accumulated from both teams. Detroit went 1-for-6 on their power play opportunities, while the Sharks converted one of their four. It was a game that, once again, hinged on the man advantage, as was the key coming into this series.
The Sharks mostly dominated play throughout the game, and the score doesn't correctly illustrate that. Howard just had a great game, with an assist or two from the interminably consistent post . San Jose held the puck in the Detroit zone for the majority of the game, and though they didn't out-shoot them in the first period, they dominated there as well. At the end of the day, the Sharks had superior numbers in chances (37-34), faceoffs (38-33), and takeaways (15-5).
If not for Howard, who made 35-of-37 saves with a .946 save percentage, and his absolutely stellar play, the game would have been blown wide open by the Sharks. It works both ways though, as Detroit found plenty of opportunities to turn the offensive pressure on, but Antti Niemi was stellar with 33-of-34 saves and a .971 save percentage. The Sharks also played it a little fast and loose with their attack on Howard, giving him an ice shower four or five times in game two alone. Howard, visibly upset by this, looked more than a little flustered as the game wore on. Ryane Clowe had two assists for the Sharks. Logan Couture also notched an assist.
Going forward, it will once again hinge on the power play, and the Sharks' ability to keep calm and consistent without giving up loose pucks. They dominated in takeaways and only had five giveaways to their credit. Their gameplan was to get Howard off his game and play a consistent sixty minutes of hockey, and that's what they were able to do. One has to feel like they'll be looking to implement the very same gameplan in game three - though one could also imagine they'd like to limit the damage they've been taking, as they were out-hit 31-to-19. If that keeps up, it will definitely be better for the Sharks to end this sooner rather than later.
Game three will take place on Wednesday, May 4th at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and will be on CSN California at 5:00 p.m. pacific. The Sharks will be looking to make it three games to none after winning both games at home to start the series.