In our game thread for the Red Wings matchup against the Sharks on Tuesday night, the question was raised as to when Detroit can stop playing the injury card. The majority of our posters said that tonight, with Tomas Holmstrom coming back, was the night. And after the Red Wings gave up the first two goals of the game to Joe Thornton, there was a sense of dread.
But the Red Wings made what could easily be considered a statement tonight: when they're on their game, they will be unstoppable. The Red Wings scored four straight goals to beat the best team in the NHL for the third time in three tries 4-2.
Dan Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg, Derek Meech, and Patrick Eaves each scored for the Red Wings, who handed the Sharks their first regulation loss in 11 games, dating back to the Red Wings last game against San Jose on January 9.
Holmstrom earned a pair of assists on the first two goals and played 14:53 on 19 shifts, with six shots and three attempts that missed the net.
The Red Wings also beat up on the best penalty kill in the league, going 2-for-6 with the man advantage.
Jimmy Howard had a much easier game than the past two, only facing 34 shots and stopping 32 of them. Evgeni Nabokov faced 37 shots for the Sharks.
However, the Wings did suffer another injury, as Niklas Kronwall left the game with what Mike Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit after the game was a tweaked ankle. Babcock also said he didn't think Kronwall would play in Wednesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.
San Jose would jump out first. Just more than six minutes into the game, Dany Heatley came streaming up the far-side boards and took a 45-foot slapper that went off Howard's elbow. Thornton happened to be to the left of Howard, and he put it quickly past him for his 14th of the season.
Thornton would strike again 3:34 later. Jason Demers sent a pass to Heatley on the blue line. Again his shot was stopped by Howard, but the puck went off to Thornton for his second of the night.
Just when it looked like the Red Wings were going to have trouble, Valtteri Filppula shook off Ryane Clowe in the far corner to the left of Nabokov and made a beautiful set up pass to Cleary in front of the net. He put it in the back of the net for his 12th of the season, with Tomas Holmstrom picking up the second assist.
Then, with Patrick Marleau already in the box for tripping, Rob Blake fired the puck out of his own zone and into the stand to draw an automatic delay-of-game penalty. Eighteen seconds later, Pavel Datsyuk fired a 20-footer that Nabokov blocked, only to have the puck go to Holmstrom. Holmstrom's shot was superbly knocked away by Nabokov, but when the puck landed on Zetterberg's stick, the third time became the charm, netting him his 14th goal of the season.
In the third, the Wings jumped back out in front. With Clowe sitting for boarding (a call that had Clowe screaming at the officials on his way to the box), Todd Bertuzzi sent a pass through traffic in front of Nabokov. It wound up going to Meech, who put a shot that went through Nabokov's legs, bounced off the inner right pad, and into the net.
They would follow up just over four minutes later, when Kris Draper tapped the puck to Brian Rafalski from just inside the blue line on the far side of the ice. Rafalski passed it diagonally to a streaking Eaves, who simply tapped the puck past Nabokov who was far enough out of the net to have no chance.
Player of the game: Derek Meech. He gets the game winner on his second goal of the season.