In most people’s minds, the San Jose Sharks have proven they’ve shaken the playoff curse that has haunted them in the past. I doubt they’ll be satisfied, though, if a berth in the Western Conference Finals is as far as they get this year. Goals from veteran leaders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were enough to lift the Sharks over the two time defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings and clinch the series for San Jose in front of their home fans.
The Wings didn’t go quietly, though, despite being down 3-1 in the series coming into this Game 5. Brian Rafalski opened the scoring and put the Wings on top 1-0 early in the 2nd with a picture-perfect shot from the point through heavy traffic that Evgeny Nabokov didn’t see til it was in the back of the net. Unfortunately for Detroit, that was all that they would get by the Russian netminder, who locked it down the rest of the night and finished the game with 33 saves.
Both teams showed pretty good discipline in this one, with just four minor penalties assessed to each club. San Jose’s effectiveness on special teams was definitely a difference maker in this one, as they successfully killed off all 4 of their penalties, and tied the game at 1-1 with Jumbo Joe’s powerplay goal early in the 2nd.
You couldn’t have picked a better cast to headline this victory for the Sharks, as Thornton and Nabokov have been the subjects of intense criticism during the postseason failures of the past. Another target for the critics has been Patrick Marleau, the former captain that has been a member of this club his entire career, since being drafted 2nd overall in 1997. It’s only fitting that it was Marleau that scored the game winner for the Sharks, blasting a one timer from the slot as he fell to one knee early in the 3rd period.
The Sharks will now wait to face the winner of the Canucks-Blackhawks series, but will continue to hold home ice advantage throughout the rest of the playoffs, as they are the only remaining 1 seed. Detroit will have a bit of an interesting offseason, as it remains to be seen whether or not veteran Nicklas Lidstrom will return for yet another season in the NHL. For now, though, it’s all about the Cup.