Red Wings continue late push with impressive victory in San Jose

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

So, where was this type of hockey for much of the season from the Red Wings?

This was supposed to be a rugged five-game trip, going from East to West, criss-crossing the country and facing some difficult playoff teams.

Detroit Red Wings center Andreas Athanasiou (72) celebrates with Frans Nielsen, right, after scoring a goal during the second period.

There's been a lot of travel, but it's the Wings who have been the best team most nights.

The Wings (28-38-10) won the third game of this trip Monday, defeating the struggling San Jose Sharks, 3-2.

Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Christoffer Ehn (shorthanded) scored goals, and goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Sharks 2

So, with the road trip ending Thursday in Buffalo (the Wings actually return home and will practice Wednesday), the Wings have thus far earned six of a possible eight points with victories over the Rangers, Golden Knights and Sharks.

The victories over Vegas and San Jose, two quality playoff teams (who, incidentally, will likely face each other) were head-scratching considering how patchworked Detroit's lineup is currently..

Because of injuries, the Wings went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Sharks (43-24-9), who’ve lost six consecutive games since clinching a playoff spot.

Here are other highlights from the victory:

Detroit's goals: The opening goal was a bit of a reversal of Saturday’s winner. Anthony Mantha stripped the puck from defenseman Jason Braun, and poked it to Larkin, who went in on a breakaway, freezing, and scoring on goalie Martin Jones 38 seconds into the game. It was Larkin’s 28th goal, tying him briefly with Athanasiou, until Athanasiou scored his 29th at 15:37 of the second period, breaking in alone from the blue line. Ehn made it 3-0 but it was Luke Glendening who made the play, outracing Brent Burns the puck, then going behind the net and feeding a wide open Ehn in front for Ehn’s third goal.

Bernier: This was more of the goaltending the Wings have expected from Bernier this season. The Sharks like to get pucks to the net and are strong around the crease, but Bernier stood firm and made 39 saves, battling all night and coming up big on two Sharks power plays late. 

Hey, we know you: Gustav Nyquist, dealt at the trade deadline, played 16 minutes, 49 seconds for the Sharks with two shots, but was minus-2. Nyquist has three goals and three assists in 13 games for the Sharks.

Hirose keeps rolling: Taro Hirose (Michigan State) created a turnover in the neutral zone and slipped a short pass to Athanasiou, who went in on a breakaway. That’s four assists in four NHL games for Hirose, who again didn’t look out of place, continually making good, smart plays. In just under 15 minutes (14:39), Hirose had one shot, one block, two takeaways and was plus-1.

San Jose goals: Evander Kane scored his 28th goal 20 seconds after Ehn’s shorthanded goal, converting the rebound after Joe Thornton got the puck on net, still on the power play, cutting the Wings’ lead to 3-1. Tomas Hertl scored with 4.7 seconds left in the game, his 33rd goal.

Injuries mounting: Thomas Vanek (middle body) was unavailable, forcing the Wings to play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) returned after missing five games, and defenseman Dylan McIlrath was promoted from Grand Rapids. Vanek joined Michael Rasmussen (lower body) and Jacob de la Rose (accelerated heartbeat) as day-to-day for now, while Justin Abdelkader (lower body), Mike Green (virus) and Trevor Daley (back) are out for the season.

Battle for the worst: As for the Wings finishing dead last in the NHL and earning the best odds for the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery … well, that isn’t happening. The Wings moved eight points ahead of Ottawa (66-58), which is 31st in the league. If anything, the Wings are only five points from Buffalo and the Rangers, both with 71 points, for 26th and 27th in the standings.

Next: The Wings travel to Buffalo for a game Thursday against the Sabres (7 p.m./FSD, 97.1 FM).

Twitter: @tkulfan