With a gold medal, a Hart Trophy and a load of other accolades, Joe Thornton has never been the other Joe on the San Jose Sharks until this year's playoffs.
Everyone on San Jose is taking a back seat to Joe Pavelski this post-season.
After Pavelski tied the it early in the third period with his second goal, Thornton ended his playoff drought by knocking in a rebound with 7:23 left that gave the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night to take a 2-0 lead in the second-round series.
"Whatever planet he's on, I think everyone wants to get on it with him," Thornton said about Pavelski, the former Wisconsin star in his fourth NHL season. "He's just been so consistent - he's been awesome. He really has been."
Thornton's one goal this post-season hasn't come close to matching Pavelski's production with an NHL-leading nine. But it helped make sure San Jose would head to Detroit with home-ice advantage intact going into Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Pavelski scored a pair of power-play goals to extend his goal-scoring streak to five games and set up Ryane Clowe's between-the-legs score to continue a breakthrough post-season for the player no longer known as "Little Joe."
"It's good to see pucks go in the net," Pavelski said. "It's good to work hard and get rewarded. It always feels good to chip in. There's a lot more to go though."
The winning goal was set up when Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom broke his stick attempting a slapshot in the offensive zone.
Dany Heatley came up with the loose puck, skated up ice on a 3-on-2 break and fired a shot into Jimmy Howard's pads. Thornton beat Brian Rafalski to the rebound in the crease and knocked in the winner.
"The puck was coming off the boards and I wanted to one-time it and the stick just broke in half and they're going the other way," Lidstrom said. "It's just one of those things where you can't do anything about it."
Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Lidstrom scored for the Red Wings, who were unable to hold onto a 3-2 lead heading into the third in part because they committed too many penalties.
Pavelski tied it early in the third when he poked in a rebound that was in the crease with the Sharks on a two-man advantage that he had set up. With Todd Bertuzzi already in the box for holding Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the offensive zone, Pavelski drew a tripping call on Niklas Kronwall that gave San Jose the 5-on-3 power play for 1:20.
"Obviously he's in the zone right now," coach Todd McLellan said. "Everything he touches seems to go in the net. He had 11 shots on goal. He feels very comfortable. But he's earned that. He works hard on every shift and he's diligent. He's a catalyst right now."
Pavelski scored what proved to be the winner in the opener on another two-man advantage early in the third period that had Detroit coach Mike Babcock steaming. He was more upset at his team after this game, when the Sharks had an 10-4 advantage on power plays, including one to end the game for too many men on the ice.
"The reality is that you can't have momentum if only half your players can get on the ice because they are sitting in the penalty box all night long," Babcock said.
Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves for San Jose, including a sharp glove stop on Datsyuk early in the third to keep the Sharks' deficit at one goal.
The Sharks have won five straight games since Dan Boyle's pass deflected off a Colorado stick and into his own net in Game 3 of the first round. That's a sign they might finally be shedding the label of post-season underachievers. To do that, they still need to knock off the Red Wings, who have ruled the Western Conference by going to six of the past 14 Stanley Cup finals. No other team in the conference has been to the finals more than twice in that span.
"It's just an easygoing feeling in the room right now with a lot of confidence," Clowe said. "We feel like we're going to get it done and we did."
The two days off following San Jose's 4-3 victory in Game 1 helped Detroit recover from a seven-game series against Phoenix and San Jose's Patrick Marleau to shake the illness that sidelined him for the opener.
Marleau started the game on the third line and didn't get back to the form he had when he scored a team-leading 44 goals in the regular season for San Jose. But he did win the faceoff that led to Pavelski's first goal and rejoined fellow Canadian Olympians Thornton and Heatley on the gold-medal line for the third period.
Marleau also committed the boarding penalty at the end of the first period that led to a key goal for Detroit. With Nabokov trying to move Holmstrom from in front of the net, Lidstrom fired a shot from the point that sneaked in for the even-strength goal just as Marleau's penalty ended. It was Lidstrom's fourth goal of the playoffs and first since celebrating his 40th birthday on Wednesday.
Holsmtrom's net presence led to Detroit's second goal when he tipped in Rafalski's shot from the point on the power play to tie it at 2 in the first period.
The Sharks dominated the play for much of the first period, getting the first six shots on net and keeping the puck in the Detroit end for long stretches. But despite the edge in possession and shots, San Jose was still tied at 2 after one, with Thornton's turnover leading to a goal by Datsyuk to open the scoring.
Detroit then took the lead but was unable to hold onto it.
"This is very frustrating," Howard said. "We had the game going into the third period, we're up 3-2 but the penalties did us in, in the end."
NOTES: Red Wings F Patrick Eaves was scratched because of an arm injury. Jason Williams got the call, getting his first action since Game 1 in the first round. ... Sharks F Jed Ortmeyer was scratched to make room for Marleau's return.
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