SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Patrick Marleau scored the tiebreaking goal 6:59 into the third period and the San Jose Sharks eliminated the two-time defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings with a 2-1 victory Saturday night in Game 5 of their second-round series.
Joe Thornton scored the first goal for San Jose and then set up Marleau's tally with a pass from behind the net to help the Sharks advance to the conference final for the second time in franchise history by beating Detroit 4-1 in the series.
Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov are the only two players remaining from the 2004 team that lost to Calgary in six games, and both came up big in the series clincher against their nemesis, the Red Wings.
Nabokov survived a blitz late in the second period to keep it tied at 1. Marleau then came through with his second game-winning goal of this series when Thornton found him all alone in the slot and he beat Jimmy Howard. The goal set off a raucous celebration at the Shark Tank.
Marleau also scored in overtime to win Game 3, also off a feed from Thornton. The duo has come under heavy criticism for San Jose's postseason failings in recent years, but delivered at key moments all series.
Thornton got his first goal of the postseason when he scored the winner in Game 2, started a third-period comeback with a goal in Game 3 and was involved in both of San Jose's goals in the clincher.
The Sharks have had the second-best record in the NHL the past five seasons, but hadn't made it past the second round in that span until now. They will play either Chicago or Vancouver in the conference finals.
Detroit is the only team better in the regular season than the Sharks since the start of the 2005-06 season and the Red Wings have been even better in the postseason. They eliminated the Sharks in the second round in 2007 and went to the last two Stanley Cup finals, winning it all in 2008.
Now a season that got off to a slow start because of injuries but seemed to be peaking at the right time has come to an early end for the Red Wings. Detroit fell behind 3-0 in this series before winning Game 4 at home 7-1 and putting up a good fight in the finale.
Detroit seemed to have the momentum after dominating the second period and surviving a missed penalty shot by Joe Pavelski early in the third. But the Sharks battled back and earned a very satisfying series win.
Detroit got its first goal early in the second when Brian Rafalski's point shot sneaked through to make it 1-0. Johan Franzen assisted on that goal, tying Gordie Howe's franchise record set in 1964 by recording a point in 12 straight playoff games.
Nabokov didn't allow anything else all game, finishing with 33 saves. He was at his best on a power play late in the second when he stopped a few tough deflections. Detroit couldn't get a good shot in the final minute even after Dan Boyle was sent off for holding with 52.2 seconds to go.
Thornton tied it just 7 seconds after Brad Stuart was sent off for elbowing Pavelski. The Sharks didn't get another shot off in the final 15:06 of the second period.
The Sharks showed no lingering effects from their Game 4 debacle, getting the best of the play in the opening period even though they were unable to break through with a goal.
Pavelski missed two good chances on one shift, Thornton hit a post later in the period and San Jose was unable to capitalize on a pair of penalties to Franzen. Howard made 15 saves in the opening period to keep the Red Wings in it.
NOTES: Both teams dressed seven defensemen, with Brad Stuart playing for Detroit despite leaving in the first period Thursday with a lower body injury and Brett Lebda also getting the nod for the Red Wings. Niclas Wallin, who hadn't played since Game 1 of the first round for San Jose, returned from a lower body injury. ... Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom played his 247th career playoff game, tying Patrick Roy for the second-most ever. Chris Chelios holds the record with 266.