DETROIT -- Apparently, not even the San Jose Sharks have the mojo needed to upend the home team at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite defeating the Detroit Red Wings in five straight regular season games dating back to last year -- not to mention ending hockey season early in the Motor City the past two playoffs -- the Sharks on Sunday became the latest visiting team to pack up and leave the visitor's locker room in a huff.
The Red Wings downed San Jose 3-2 in a game televised on NBC as part of USA Hockey's "Hockey Weekend Across America" celebration and pushed their NHL record home-win streak to a jaw-dropping 23 games in the process.
"It's pretty amazing," said Detroit forward Drew Miller, who led the way with his 12th goal and set up Darren Helm's game-winner in the third with a nice takeaway and feed to the slot. "[The old record of 20] was around for so long. We got a couple games past it, so it's going to be pretty tough to touch it."
The old NHL record for road wins was originally set 82 years ago by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and then matched by the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins actually pushed their home streak to 22 games overall by winning twice on home ice to start the 1930-31 season, but that record also belongs to this year's Red Wings (41-17-2) now.
Detroit travels to Chicago Tuesday and then heads back home Thursday for a chance to win No. 24 in a row against the Vancouver Canucks -- who trail the Western Conference-leading Red Wings by just four points.
"We kind of want to just keep it going and see how far we can take it," said Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, who stayed scorching hot despite a lower-body injury by giving Detroit a 1-0 lead in the first period with his 13th goal. "The fans were fired up again from the start. It was like another playoff game for the atmosphere and we really want to keep this going for them."
Signs with "23" on them dotted the crowd at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday and the noise level inside the building keeps ratcheting up with each victory in the streak.
"You see signs [now] and we'll probably see even more signs next game, so we want to keep winning," said Zetterberg, who has 4 goals and 7 assists in the past seven games. "In the same way, we need points. We need to win games. If we want to win our division, we have to win our home games."
The Wings did get some help in the Central Division on Sunday, as the rival Chicago Blackhawks defeated second-place St. Louis to put Detroit up by five points over the Blues (79). The Hawks are in fourth in the Central, but have won three straight and appear to have things turned around after a nine-game winless skid. The Red Wings did their own little turnaround act Sunday, despite leading the entire game.
After taking a 2-0 lead on Miller's goal off a rebound in the second, San Jose cut its deficit to just 2-1 thanks to an odd power-play goal scored by Logan Couture
. After tipping a floating puck near the crease over the crossbar, Couture watched it hit the netting, bounce back over the bar and deflect into the net off the stick of Detroit's Justin Abdelkader to help swing momentum completely toward San Jose.
It also capped a Sharks man-advantage with the red light flashing for the first time in four opportunities. Up until that point, MacDonald (31 saves) had done a masterful job of stonewalling the Sharks' offensive attack -- particularly early in the second during a pair of San Jose man-advantages on back-to-back penalties assessed to Johan Franzen.
Boosted by the power plays, the Sharks outshot Detroit 19-8 in the second and took control of the action heading into the third -- which started the same way. San Jose pushed hard to get the game-tying goal, but MacDonald stopped a good backhand shot by Patrick Marleau
41 seconds into the period and Detroit then started to regain control.
The Wings also capitalized on some misfortune for San Jose, which lost defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic
and Colin White
and top-line forward Joe Pavelski
for a small stretch of time after each was hurt blocking shots on three successive shifts.
Down three skaters, the Sharks gave ground to the Wings before Miller and Helm teamed up to create the eventual game-winner seven minutes into the third -- which Helm blasted past Antti Niemi
(25 saves) from the slot, after a nice steal and feed by Miller.
"I was aiming for the net," Helm said. "I've been getting a little frustrated, getting chances, not being able to finish. That was just one where [Miller] made a great pass, I just teed it up and hoped for the best. It was nice to see the red light go on in the back."
Marleau potted his 23rd goal of the season off a wrister from seven feet out to make it 3-2 with 4:44 left, but MacDonald made two more saves and rookie Cory Emmerton blocked another attempt before time expired.
"I know we're first in our division, but that doesn't mean much when you're only a few points from being out the playoffs," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe
said. "We're looking for wins, not so much good efforts. We need to get the points in the bag."
In order to do that, and break a three-game winless skid, San Jose must bring a more complete effort.
"We've got to compete harder," Clowe said. "The second period was good. The first period wasn't too bad, either. The third period was disappointing. That's when you've got to put your foot on the gas and hammer down. That's why [Detroit wins] so much at home. They stepped it up in the third and outplayed us."