San Jose and Detroit engaged in a classic seven-game series, with the Sharks emerging victorious.
San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau took a lot of criticism for his play in this series, but he ultimately scored the winning goal in Game Seven against Detroit, capping an exceptional competitive matchup.
In addition to burying the winning goal on a third-period rebound in the crease, Marleau made a couple of notable defensive plays to prevent Red Wings scoring chances and tied for the Sharks' lead with five shots on goal in the deciding game. It was Marleau's first goal in a Game Six or Game Seven in his career. (While Jeremy Roenick has also taken heat for his criticism of Marleau, it's worth noting that JR is tied for second all-time with six goals in Game Sevens.)
While Marleau's effort was commendable, the real story for the Sharks was Joe Thornton, who played a very strong game, assisting on the first goal with a perfect pass to Devin Setoguchi and setting up several other high-quality scoring opportunities that were turned away by Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
The story going into Game Seven was that the Red Wings needed to keep the Sharks from getting off to a good start in order to take the fans out of it. That's decidedly not what happened, as the Sharks scored two first period goals and the Shark Tank was buzzing -- loudly -- for much of the night.
On the first, Thornton threaded a pass to Devin Setoguchi for a power play marker; on the second, in the final minute of the first period, Detroit's usually-reliable Henrik Zetterberg was careless on a backhanded pass that was intercepted by Logan Couture, who promptly buried it top shelf.
San Jose carried play in the first period, outshooting Detroit 17-11, but then the Red Wings turned the tables in the second, outshooting San Jose 17-6 and scoring a goal to get back in the game.
When Marleau scored with 7:47 remaining, opening up a two-goal cushion, it looked like the Red Wings were finished, but Datsyuk followed with a nifty backhand goal 1:46 later to keep the Wings' season alive.
Despite a power play opportunity late in the third period, the Red Wings couldn't get the equalizer, as Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 38 of 40 shots for the victory.
While the Sharks got power forward Ryane Clowe back in the lineup for Game Seven, Detroit was undermanned up front. Johan Franzen didn't dress and Todd
Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary were both knocked out of the game with upper body injuries. Bertuzzi played just 3:53 before leaving and Cleary 10:53. As a result, Valtteri Filppula played a playoff-high 21:06, a total he exceeded just three times all season.
Datsyuk finished the series with nine points, giving him 15 in 11 games in the postseason, tying Ryan Kesler for the playoff scoring lead. Zetterberg had eight points and Lidstrom six, the trio of veterans the only Red Wings with more than three points in the seven-gamer.
Franzen, obviously hurting, was scorless in the five games he played, and Jiri Hudler was held off the scoresheet in his six games played.
For San Jose, defenceman Dan Boyle led the way with eight points (including two assists in Game Seven); Couture had seven, while Clowe, Thornton and Setoguchi each had six. Of the Sharks' scorers, Marleau was the disappointment, with one point in seven games, but his timing -- getting that one goal in the third period of Game Seven -- couldn't have been much better.
The Sharks now move on to the Western Conference Final against Vancouver, a series that will pit two teams notorious for playoff disappointment, with one of them getting a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.