Sharks eliminate Red Wings, 2-1
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov shouldered the brunt of the criticism for San Jose's past postseason failures.
It's only fitting that those three are the biggest reason why the Sharks are headed back to the Western Conference finals for the first time in six years.
Thornton set up Marleau for the tiebreaking goal 6:59 into the third period and Nabokov bounced back from a Game 4 shellacking to help the Sharks eliminate the two-time defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings with a 2-1 victory last night in Game 5 of their second-round series.
"It feels good," said Thornton, who scored the first goal for San Jose. "After kind of embarrassing ourselves with the 7-1 loss in Detroit we just wanted to bounce back. I thought we did a great job."
San Jose is now halfway to that elusive title. The Sharks will play either Chicago or Vancouver in the conference finals. Marleau and Nabokov are the only players remaining from San Jose's only previous trip to the conference finals when the Sharks lost to Calgary in six games.
Detroit got its first goal early in the second when Brian Rafalski's point shot sneaked through to make it 1-0.
Nabokov didn't allow anything else, finishing with 33 saves.
"It's hard to play against those guys," Nabokov said. "I don't think people expected us to win 4-1 but that's hockey."
PENGUINS 2, CANADIENS 1
PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves, Kris Letang scored on a power play and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved within a victory of eliminating the Montreal Canadiens.
Sergei Gonchar also scored as the reigning Stanley Cup champions seized a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Game 6 tomorrow in Montreal.
"He was huge — and we need him to be like this," Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said of Fleury.
Montreal rallied to win the final three games in the opening round against top-seeded Washington, but Pittsburgh hasn't blown a 3-2 lead since the 1996 Eastern Conference finals against Florida.
"Obviously, everybody still believes," Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak said. "It's 3-2, and we are still in it. We've been in this situation before."