Red Wings 2, Sharks 1, SO

Jonas Gustavsson delivered just the kind of performance the
Detroit Red Wings expected when they signed him as a backup in the

Gustavsson made 25 saves in his first start of the season and
was perfect in the shootout, leading the Red Wings to their third
win in four games with a 2-1 victory over the struggling San Jose
Sharks on Thursday night.

Slowed by a nagging groin injury early in the season, Gustavsson
was unable to be the reliable backup to Jimmy Howard that Detroit
needs – until he came up big against the Sharks. Gustavsson helped
the Red Wings bounce back after losing 2-1 in Los Angeles the
previous night.

”I was real excited to play today,” Gustavsson said. ”You
play because you want to win. That’s the best feeling you can have.
The guys really helped me a lot today. They made it easier for

Damien Brunner scored the lone goal in the shootout to give
Gustavsson his first win since March 3, 2012, for Toronto against
Montreal. Patrick Eaves tied the game midway through the third
period with his first goal in more than two years as the Red Wings
showed no signs of fatigue against the more-rested Sharks.

”We had a lot of energy out, especially after playing last
night,” Eaves said. ”I thought right from the start we didn’t
have any lull at all. We really wanted to have a push in this game
after last night and go for the two points.”

Logan Couture scored the lone goal for the Sharks, who lost 10
of 12 games in February and have just one regulation win in their
past 14 games. Antti Niemi made 33 saves but it wasn’t enough for
the win as San Jose’s scoring slump continues with just 10 goals in
the past nine games.

”It’s the same story every game,” Couture said. ”We have to
find a way to score more goals. Personally and as a team we have to
find a way to put it into the back of the net. You’re not going to
win many games scoring one goal and we’ve found that out

San Jose was even blanked in the shootout, missing all three
attempts against a backup goalie, including a wrist shot by Ryane
Clowe that went wide to end the game.

That made Brunner’s forehand goal off Niemi’s glove in the
second round the game-winner. Brunner has scored the deciding goal
in both shootouts he has participated in as a rookie, also scoring
the lone goal against Columbus on Jan. 21.

”Good players are going to miss, so why should I put myself
under pressure going out there,” Brunner said. ”I know I can
score. It about being loose out there.”

This game between the only two teams to make the playoffs every
season since the 2004-05 lockout took on added importance as both
squads have struggled to find consistency in this lockout-shortened
season. Both clubs are in a logjam in the middle of the Western
Conference, with the Red Wings tied for fourth and the Sharks one
point back in a five-way tie for sixth place.

The teams traded goals early in the third period, with Couture
putting the Sharks on top when he scored the first goal less than 5
minutes into the period. The goal came after an odd bounce off the
backboards on a dump-in by Douglas Murray. Couture and Joe Thornton
did a good job at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive
zone and Thornton then found Couture for a one-timer from the
circle to make it 1-0.

Niemi made a strong stop on a rebound from Daniel Cleary to
preserve the lead but had no chance when Eaves tipped Niklas
Kronwall’s point shot past him for the tying goal less than 2
minutes after San Jose scored to end a personal 46-game goal

Gustavsson preserved the tie when he made a tough stop on
Thornton from in close with less than 7 minutes to play, and the
game remained that way for the rest of regulation.

The Sharks had the better of the chances in the first two
periods, with Couture generating a few scoring chances in the first
period and Clowe missing wide after struggling to control the puck
on a breakaway.

San Jose then failed to even get a shot on a pair of 2-on-1s in
the second period as Patrick Marleau and Thornton each attempted
passes that failed to connect instead of shooting the puck.

”We haven’t exactly been lighting it up,” coach Todd McLellan
said. ”They’re smart people. They can watch the game. They know
they have to shoot the puck to score. It’s disappointing. When we
have those opportunities, we have to make good on them. Other teams
in the league are. We have to.”

NOTES: The Red Wings failed on two power-play chances and are 0
for 33 on the road this season. … Clowe returned from a two-game
suspension but remains without a goal in 17 games.