The Detroit Red Wings playoff chances have plunged over the last two weeks. Tonight, against the best team in the NHL, they had a chance to stop the slide.
But they instead faced a goaltender in Evgeni Nabokov who stopped 50 of 52 shots. A bad defensive setup lead to a San Jose Sharks goal. And that led to the second straight shootout, where Patrick Marleau scored in the third round to hand the Red Wings their first loss of the season to the Sharks, 3-2.
And while the Red Wings might argue that they've at least earned a pair of points over the past four games, they've now lost four straight for the first time all season, and despite sitting only a point behind Calgary for the final playoff spot, the Wings have won only twice in the past 10 games.
Johan Franzen and Jason Williams scored for the Red Wings. For Franzen, it's his first goal in his second game back from his extended absence due to injury. For Williams, it may be a critical tipping point, as Fox Sports Detroit reported during the game that General Manager Ken Holland said he will make a roster move tomorrow prior to the Olympic roster freeze at midnight Saturday.
Meanwhile Jimmy Howard continued to show impressive control in net, with 24 saves. But for the fourth time in five shootouts, he gave up the game winner.
In the first period, with Jed Ortmeyer in the penalty box, Henrik Zetterberg came streaming down the center of the ice. Near the top of the faceoff circles, he passed it to his right on Franzen, who took an almost imperceptible windup and fired a bullet past Nabokov to earn his second of the season. Nicklas Lidstrom picked up the second assist.
The lead would last a whopping 25 seconds. Niclas Wallin's shot from the blue line went wide to the right of Howard, and bounced off the boards. Joe Thornton happened to be there, then snapped the puck into the net to get his 16th of the year, with Dan Boyle getting an assist as well.
Then, with nine seconds left in the period, Torrey Mitchell brought the puck around behind the net. He passed across ice to a wide-open Dwight Helminen, who had no trouble getting it in the net for his first of the season. On the play, Jonathan Ericsson seemed to miss his coverage assignment on Helminen, which led to the breakdown.
In the third period, Williams came charging up to the left of Nabokov. He fired a shot that was so fast off the back of the net that the officials on the ice completely missed the goal. But the replays made it clear, and the video replay took very little time to turn back the clock and put the goal on the net. Brett Lebda and Tomas Holmstrom earned assists.
After a wild overtime, Pavel Datsyuk missed the net while Williams and Todd Bertuzzi had their shots saved by Nabokov, while Joe Pavelski's shot was saved by Howard and Ryane Clowe's shot went wide to the right before Patrick Marleau's goal wrapped things up.
Detroit will face Ottawa on Saturday night before the Olympic break.
Player of the game: Johan Franzen. A goal on six shots in 20:44 of ice time is a solid indication that he's shaking off the rust pretty quickly.