Detroit — The Red Wings were without their two top defensemen, taking on the team with the league’s best record, which is also one of the higher-scoring teams in the NHL — so naturally only one goal was scored in the game.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, it was the San Jose Sharks who scored it, in a shootout, as the Sharks defeated the Red Wings, 1-0, Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
“There were two pretty good teams out there,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Our young defense played pretty good and there wasn’t much scoring chances either way. Both teams played tight. It was a good game.”
Sharks forward Logan Couture was the lone player from either team to score in the shootout, producing a victory for the Sharks (8-0-1).
“It was just a quick snapper blocker side,” said Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 27 shots. “I thought I was backing up a lot too fast last year and maybe giving guys too much respect.
“I really tried to hold my ground but it was a good shot over the pad and those are one of the toughest for a goalie to stop.”
Sharks goalie Antti Niemi stopped 24 shots.
The Red Wings (6-3-1) were without defensemen Niklas Kronwall (concussion) and Jonathan Ericsson (birth of his first child).
But young defensemen such as Brendan Smith, Xavier Ouellet and Brian Lashoff more than held their own.
“Those guys stepped in,” said defenseman Kyle Quincey, the elder statesman among the defensemen Monday, and who played 21 minutes, 20 seconds. “A guy like X(avier) coming in, he’s NHL-ready. They (the young defensemen) all played well.”
Unlike their recent games, the Red Wings limited the Sharks’ scoring opportunities and the 27 shots San Jose got were quite manageable.
“We didn’t give them a lot of space,” Howard said. “Another positive was we didn’t give up a lot of odd-man rushes. We did a great job of keeping a third man high in the offensive zone.
“They can come 200 feet (down the ice) but we didn’t turn the puck over. It was a good sign.”
The Red Wings enjoyed a power play with just under five minutes to play in regulation time when San Jose’s James Sheppard interfered with Henrik Zetterberg.
But the Red Wings, who were 0-for-3 on the power play, produced little pressure with that particular man advantage.
At even strength, both teams simply suffocated each other.
“Just not a lot of room for either team,” Babcock said. “Both teams checked real well. Couture, (Patrick) Marleau and (Tyler) Kennedy did a real good job playing against Pavel (Datsyuk) and Z(etterberg).
“It was a good hockey game. Obviously you would have liked to have gotten another point. We were good. The whole thing, when you add it all up, both teams did a pretty good job. There wasn’t a whole lot of room (on the ice).”
The Sharks were 0-for-2 on the power play.
Howard stopped Patrick Marleau and Freddie Hamilton on rushes in the third period, while Niemi had to be sharp on good chances by Tomas Tatar and Datsyuk in close.
Each team had quality chances in the second period, but Howard and Niemi came through with timely saves.
Niemi stopped Daniel Alfredsson point blank from just outside the crease on the Red Wings’ best chance.
Howard somehow found defenseman Justin Braun’s shot through traffic, ending a Sharks flurry on San Jose’s best chance.
“Early on it was two teams trying to find their legs out there from traveling yesterday,” Howard said. “It was one of those games, for a goalie, that are more difficult because one mistake can cost you the game.”