After spending most of the second half of the season in the minors, Benn Ferriero was thrilled when he learned he would make his playoff debut in the opener for San Jose on his 24th birthday.
Ferriero sure made the most of his opportunity.
Ferriero scored 7:03 into overtime on a deflected goal that gave the Sharks a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
"That was a pretty special birthday present," he said. "I don't think I could ask for anything more than that."
Neither could the Sharks, who were stymied most of the night by Jimmy Howard before tying the game in the third period on Joe Pavelski's power-play goal and then winning it with a goal from a most unlikely source.
Ferriero, who has seven goals in 57 career regular-season games, spent the final two months almost exclusively in the minors. He played only once in the NHL after Feb. 5 this season and watched the entire first-round of the playoffs.
He played sparingly in the game before getting on the ice at the tail end of a 4-minute power play. After the power play ended, he sent a shot toward the net that hit off Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart's stick and got past Howard. Stuart slammed his stick to the ice in disgust after the goal, as the Sharks won their fourth overtime game already this postseason.
"You never know who the hero is going to be," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "You never know where it's going to come from. That's just a prime example of just shooting, just putting it at the net in overtime. You never know what's going to happen."
Nicklas Lidstrom scored in the first period for Detroit the day after his 41st birthday. Howard made 44 saves, including three during Justin Abdelkader's double minor for high-sticking, but had little chance on Ferriero's deflected winner.
"It's very disappointing, especially after leading for most of the game," Lidstrom said. "We were able to kill off that 4-minute penalty in overtime. They kept coming at us; our guy was coming out of the box and it was still a scramble in our zone. This is what happens in the playoffs. You're going to have those momentum swings."
Game 2 is Sunday in San Jose.
After being shut out for two-plus periods by Howard, the Sharks finally broke through midway through the third on their third power play of the night with Todd Bertuzzi out for boarding Pavelski.
Joe Thornton took a big shot from just inside the blue line that Howard stopped, but Pavelski batted the rebound down out of the air with his stick and into the net to tie it with 9:38 to go with San Jose's first power-play goal in four games.
The Red Wings killed another power play later in the third and withstood a late flurry from San Jose, with Howard making a tough pad save on a deflection by Dany Heatley to send the game to overtime.
"It was not enough," Howard said. "All that matters is winning. I felt good out there and I saw a lot of the shots."
The Sharks dominated the play in the first half of the second period but were unable to score. Howard made a tough stop on Pavelski and helped kill a power play as Detroit maintained the lead despite being outshot 16-2 in the first 10 minutes of the second period.
Detroit allowed two shots the rest of the period and had chances to extend the lead but one shot rolled along the goal line and away from the net, and Antti Niemi stopped Jiri Hudler on a wrist shot in the closing minute.
The Red Wings were well-rested, with eight full days off since their sweep of Phoenix in the first round. That's in stark contrast to their one day off a year ago before playing San Jose after a seven-game series against the Coyotes. They fell behind 3-0 in that series and were eliminated in five games.
San Jose killed off an early power play before the Red Wings broke through midway through the period when Pavel Datsyuk got the puck on the boards and fed Lidstrom in the slot for a slap shot that beat Niemi to the glove side.
NOTES: The last player to get his first playoff goal in OT of his first playoff game was San Jose's Niko Dimitrakos, in Game 1 of the first round against St. Louis in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Detroit coach Mike Babcock turned 48 on Friday.