SAN JOSE, Calif. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The Detroit Red Wings survived the first 10 minutes, looked really good even, through 25 minutes. The rest sank them.
The Wings left SAP Center Thursday having lost 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks, seemingly immune at home. Jimmy Howard had a rough second period, his teammates failed to challenge on a handful of power plays, and were outworked by the Sharks, who improved to 16-1-3 as hosts.
"We gave up two ugly goals," coach Mike Babcock said. "Anyway you look at it, with the team we have right now, we've got to play with real good structure, we've got to work real hard, and we've got to get good goaltending. We didn't get all of that, so you have no opportunity."
Howard, who made 44 saves Saturday at Dallas, got the hook after letting in four goals on 23 shots through two periods. He made a handful of saves early in the second period, but then allowed a bad goal to Andrew Desjardins that made it 2-1. Before long Joe Pavelski had netted his second of the game, and Dan Boyle put a rally out of reach with a power play goal.
"I thought Howie had his best game of the year last game," Babcock said. "Wasn't good enough."
Howard declined to talk to media.
The Wings approach the first 10 minutes of a game at San Jose as a matter of survival - come out of it without a significant deficit, and exhale. They did that well enough, even after Joe Thornton showed why he's the NHL's pass master when he drove the puck into the right corner, eyed Pavelski, waited for Pavelski to lose Henrik Zetterberg, and then threaded the puck onto Pavelski's stick.
Tomas Tatar made it 1-1 when he demonstrated why he was chosen to represent Slovakia at the Olympics. He had the puck behind San Jose's net, waited, saw Marc-Edouard Vlasic had lost his stick and stepped out and deked to a backhand for a goal.
"I saw one guy doesn't have his stick," Tatar said. "I was looking up on the points, like who I'm going to pass to, but nobody really recover for the guy who didn't have this stick, so I choose to go that side."
The Wings could feel all the better about their first period in light of being without Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Darren Helm among others, leaving them essentially with one scoring line. If none of those are available for Saturday's game at Los Angeles, Babcock sounded an alert the team would have to bring in Riley Sheahan because of the lack of centers.
Three minutes after Desjardins scored on a hard angle from the boards, Pavelski netted no. 2 when he converted Brad Stuart's rebound. The Wings didn't help themselves with two listless power plays.
"We stopped skating," Niklas Kronwall said. "We stopped skating and started watching them. Our power play has to be more intense."
Zetterberg said, "after the first, we were pretty happy. In this building, it's not good when they score first, but we found a way to come back. Unfortunately they got two quick ones in the second.
"It is a good team to play against. It's tough to come back when you're down two or three goals."
Zetterberg disagreed the Wings stopped skating, saying, "I don't think we did that."
Howard stopped skating after two periods, anyway, ceding the net to Petr Mrazek. The third period ended up degenerating into a series of pointless scuffles. At the end, the Wings emerged from their first game after a four-day break with no points, and now face salvaging something from this trip at L.A. and Anaheim.
Detroit Free Press