Sharks hang on in a classic Game 7, beat Red Wings 3-2 and move on to West finals

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It’s only fitting that a series that saw such greatness out of both San Jose and Detroit through each of their three wins saw a Game 7 worthy of representing the rest of the series with the sixth one-goal game of the seven game series. The six one goal games made this matchup the closest in NHL history.

Ultimately the Sharks were able to avoid joining an ignominious group of teams through history to lose a series after blowing a 3-0 series lead, winning Game 7 3-2 over Detroit and moving on to the Western Conference finals against Vancouver.

Ultimately, the game was won in the first period for the Sharks as they were able to jump out quickly on the Red Wings forcing the Wings to defend early and putting them back on their heels. That plan worked out well for the Sharks as they were able to get a power play goal from Devin Setoguchi just over 12 minutes into the game followed up by a snipe of a goal from Logan Couture to send the Sharks into intermission with a 2-0 lead.

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As it’s gone all series long, the Wings were down but not out as they were able to cut the lead to one thanks to Henrik Zetterberg converting on a 3-on-2 break to put one past Antti Niemi (38 saves). While the Sharks were still doing their part to keep Detroit held back, the Wings started to push play more and Zetterberg’s tally changed the pace.

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The third period set the stage for an incredible finish and it did not disappoint as one embattled San Jose Shark turned out to come up big. Patrick Marleau scored with under eight minutes to play in the period after a net mouth scramble that saw Jimmy Howard (27 saves) lose track of the puck. After Game 5, Versus’ Jeremy Roenick took Marleau to task for his poor play in that game. Marleau’s tally turned out to be a big one.

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With the Sharks ahead by two goals and seemingly ready to roll on to victory, the Wings wouldn’t go quietly again. Once again it would be Pavel Datsyuk who would do his part to lead the Wings back scoring perhaps the goal of the playoffs ripping a backhand shot over the shoulder of Antti Niemi.

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With the Wings within one, the pressure was on as the game closed down but Detroit didn’t have one more miracle in their pocket. Sharks captain Joe Thornton had perhaps one of the best games of his career earning a great assist on Setoguchi’s goal in the first and doing his part to shadow the Wings’ best players defensively and winning faceoffs. Pierre McGuire spoke with Thornton after the game to get his thoughts.

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For Detroit the loss is disappointing for sure and with the Wings losing the services of both Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary to concussions in this game, their battle to win the game and the series was made even more difficult down two key forwards. As useful as guys like Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves are they’re not as offensively skilled as either Cleary or Bertuzzi. The Wings’ offseason will see some changes coming to it and also a potential retirement from Nicklas Lidstrom.

The Sharks are able to move on to the Western Conference finals where they’ll meet the top seeded team in the conference. With Vancouver laying ahead for the Sharks, they’ll have quite the road ahead to try and do battle with them. After such a knockdown, drag out series with Detroit, they’ll have to stay sharp to keep up with the equally motivated Canucks.

Here’s the highlights from tonight’s game:

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Here’s the recap from the Versus crew:

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Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.