The Detroit Red Wings came into San Jose Monday night coming off a strong game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Sharks were seeking a crucial two points in their pursuit of the top spot in the Pacific Division. Their chances of catching the Calgary Flames took a big blow as Dylan Larkin opened the scoring just 38 seconds in, and the Red Wings skated away with a 3-2 victory. The night featured goals from Christoffer Ehn, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou. Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves to capture his eighth win of the season. The Sharks scored both of their goals in the third period, the second coming with just under five seconds left in the game.
The best-told stories begin with an attention-grabber. The story of this game opened with Dylan Larkin receiving a nice feed from Anthony Mantha and heading in alone on Sharks goalie Martin Jones. Larkin slid the puck through Jones' five-hole, and the Red Wings had a 1-0 lead not even a minute in.
Brent Burns tried to show Drew Doughty why he deserves Norris-consideration by asserting his presence on the game at various points. At around 12 minutes in, he unleashed a heavy shot on Jonathan Bernier. Bernier made a big reaction save. The whole arena could feel that Bernier was dialed-in. Bernier struggled mightily during the first half of the season, but his game seems to have turned a corner. In his last five games, Bernier now has a .931 sv%.
SJ 11 DET 10
The second period featured a ton of puck-movement. Detroit moved the puck mainly north to south, and San Jose methodically moved it around to create chances. At one point, veteran center Frans Nielsen found himself on a line with Mr. Point-Streak Taro Hirose and Ryan Kuffner. The trio created offensive pressure with a good cycle down low, and their puck-movement eventually led to a good shot from defenseman Filip Hronek. Good look not only for Detroit's newest players but for the veteran who looks to be a lock for the third-line center role for the next year or two.
Speaking of Hirose, his heroics continued. He fed a speeding Athanasiou, resulting in “Double-A” being in alone on Martin Jones. Athanasiou tucked it in on the far side, and Detroit found themselves with a two-goal lead. At this point, San Jose was beginning to pull away in chances, but Detroit's speed kept resulting in chances for the Red Wings. Athanasiou, in particular, was buzzing every time he stepped onto the ice.
SJ 22 DET 18
The Sharks peppered Jonathan Bernier with shots throughout the third period. They did this not only with sustained offensive pressure but also with the help of Detroit taking three penalties. Dylan Larkin extended his team lead in penalty minutes, but San Jose would finish the game with a 1/4 success-rate on the power-play. The Red Wings did well on the penalty kill, and their hard work was rewarded when Christoffer Ehn scored a short-handed goal eight and a half minutes into the period. This had to have been a frustrating game to watch for Sharks fans.
Just twenty seconds later, the Sharks converted their lone power-play tally. Evander Kane converted off a scramble in front of the net. San Jose's team-leader in goals is Captain Joe Pavelski, who missed tonight's game with an undisclosed injury. Pavelski has 37 goals this season; Kane's goal tied him for third in team scoring with his 28th goal. San Jose was able to control play so well without Pavelski and Erik Karlsson, illustrating the overall depth on the Sharks roster and the talent-gap between San Jose and Detroit.
Jonathan Bernier made few “miraculous” saves this game, but he was tested and tested often. He looked sturdy all game and looked well on his way to a shutout heading into the third period. Now that he seems to have found his groove in Detroit, he's a strong bet to have a bounce-back year next season. Having Bernier and Jimmy Howard at the top of their games at the same time would do wonders for this team's competitive aspirations.
In the final moments of the game, Tomas Hertl scored his 33rd of the season. It was far too late in the game to inspire hope for a comeback. It was a nice stat-boost for him nonetheless. Honestly, with the volume of shots, San Jose threw at Detroit's net, it's a real testament to Bernier's game and Detroit's willingness to block shots that the Sharks didn't run away with this game.
The final shot tally was San Jose with 41 and Detroit with 23. Martin Jones continues to look less than adequate for the Sharks.
The win pushes Detroit to 28-38-10. Those on the “embrace the tank” bandwagon will be upset to know that Detroit now has an eight-point lead on last-place Ottawa. They also have a three-point lead on 30th-place Los Angeles. Remember when New Jersey won the Nico Hischier lottery? They had worse odds than Detroit does now, so stay positive, Red Wings fans.
The Red Wings head to Buffalo to take on last year's lottery winner the Sabres on Thursday. It's always fun to watch Dylan Larkin and Jack Eichel go head-to-head, and Thursday's match-up will be no different. Be sure to check in at Michigan Sports and Entertainment for all things Red Wings leading up to the 7:00 PM puck-drop. For more updates, be sure to follow Michigan Sports and Entertainment on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.