Commentary

These Sharks have all the answers

Updated: May 5, 2011, 2:23 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- The similarities are so eerie, it's spooky.

One year later to the day, the Sharks trailed entering the third period of Game 3. Joe Thornton set up an overtime goal, and the San Jose Sharks stunned Joe Louis Arena with a 4-3 win and 3-0 series stranglehold over the Detroit Red Wings.

"All the same scenarios; it's really weird," Thornton said. "It's just very bizarre. For it to happen again is strange; what can I say?"

This time around, the Sharks captain set up Devin Setoguchi for the overtime heroics.

"I saw 'Jumbo' curl up the wall," said Setoguchi, who also scored the overtime winner in Game 3 at Los Angeles in the first round. "Usually when he does that, he always looks to the middle for the quick pop play and for the shot, and I got it. [Patrick] Eaves was in the slot, just kind of right there, so I just tried to get it through his legs or by him quickly and snuck one right past him."

Just a few minutes earlier, Setoguchi was in the penalty box for a holding call on Todd Bertuzzi. The loneliest feeling in the world is sitting in the box in overtime.

[+] EnlargeSharks V. Wings
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonDan Boyle scored the game-tying goal on Jimmy Howard at the 15:52 mark of the third period.

"You're not really thinking. You're saying, 'Don't score, don't score, don't score' over and over in your head, and hopefully they don't score," Setoguchi said.

"Arguably the biggest penalty kill we've had all year," said star blueliner Dan Boyle, who tied the game at 15:52 of the third period.

And that might be the difference with this version of the Sharks compared to years past. When the going gets tough, these guys don't fold.

"We're just very, very comfortable," Thornton said. "Our locker room is really calm. We just take some deep breaths and we feel we've got so many gifted players that can end games at any time. We were lucky to get in overtime tonight, I thought, but when we do, we're perfect in overtime so far this year."

Perfect in overtime, and they're showing the kind of resolve in pressure situations that was lacking in years past.

On a night the Washington Capitals further cemented their reputation as playoff posers, the Sharks continued to shed theirs. A year after reaching the Western Conference finals and losing to a Chicago team nobody was going to beat, the Sharks two years in a row have gone up 3-0 over the mighty Red Wings.

And the poster boy for these Sharks has been Thornton, maligned by media around the league for past playoff performances, sometimes fairly, most recently unfairly. If anyone in the East has been watching Western Conference hockey, they have seen a transformed Thornton, one whose two-way play has been dominant. He raised his game Wednesday night in the third period and overtime when his team needed him most.

So, are people going to finally start believing in these guys?

"It's funny before the series because people talked about how Detroit had a better team, they were more hungry, they weren't beat up this time; we didn't get a lot of credit before the series," Clowe said. "Obviously the series is far from over yet, but I think the experience and leadership is finally shining through right now. It's crazy that we're in the exact same position here once again."

Coach Mike Babcock's Wings, meanwhile, deserve a better fate than being down 3-0. They played their best game of the series Wednesday night, and all three games have been decided by one goal. But that's just the thing, right? When the Wings were winning their four Stanley Cups over the past two decades, they were the team managing to win by a goal.

"The third period, to me, we were a bit careful," Babcock said.

The Wings sat on a 3-2 lead in the third period instead of continuing to press with what had been their best forecheck and offensive zone pressure of the series in the opening two periods. But San Jose took over in the third period, outshooting the Wings 16-8.

"They're finding a way; that's what good teams do," Babcock said of the Sharks.

The Wings made changes for Game 3. It still wasn't enough. These Sharks seem to have an answer for everything.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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