SAN JOSE — Joe Pavelski got the puck to the right of the net and sent a one-timer wide in the final minute as he tried for that elusive first hat trick. That’s about the only thing that hasn’t gone Pavelski’s way of late.
Pavelski scored two more goals and the San Jose Sharks beat Jimmy Howard for the ninth straight time in the regular season with a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Pavelski has three two-goal games this season and 22 in his career but is still seeking his first three-goal game in the NHL.
“It’ll happen, I bet,” he said. “Hopefully. We’ll see. We’ll keep trying. That was one of the better looks I’ve had at it, though.”
Dan Boyle and Andrew Desjardins also scored for the Sharks, who bounced back after losing two of three on a recent road trip. Antti Niemi made 24 saves to beat the Red Wings for the fourth straight time with just three goals allowed in that span.
“We know it’s going to be a good competitive game against these guys,” said San Jose captain Joe Thornton, who had two assists to give him a league-leading 45. “We weren’t very focused in Nashville but (Thursday) I thought we got back on track and played solid for 60.”
Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Red Wings, who began a tough three-game California swing with a loss. Detroit follows up this game with weekend visits to Los Angeles and Anaheim. The three California teams have just six regulation losses in 63 home games this season.
Howard made 19 saves but allowed three goals in the second period to end his night and extend his struggles against the Sharks, who haven’t lost to him in the regular season in more than three years. San Jose’s 10 regular-season wins against Howard are the second most for any team, trailing only Chicago’s 12.
“We gave up two ugly goals,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “For whatever reason, they went up 3-1 and that seemed to do it for us. We have to be mentally strong and keep skating no matter what. With this group we need good discipline and good goaltending and we didn’t get it.”
Howard allowed two soft goals in the second period to help the Sharks break open a close game. The onslaught started when Desjardins skated into the offensive zone and beat Howard to the short side from a bad angle for his second goal of the season to make it 2-1.
Pavelski added to the lead when he knocked in the rebound of Brad Stuart’s shot, giving him 12 goals in his last 15 games as he has excelled on a line with Thornton and Brent Burns.
“He’s been really good,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “We need to keep him that way. When the team really needs him, he elevates his game. That’s the sign of a real good player. Again, playing with the two players that he does, he’s just got to get himself in the right spot and find pucks, and he took advantage of it again.”
Boyle added to the lead on a power play when he beat Howard with a wrist shot from the circle that made it 4-1.
The game got testy in the third period, starting with a fight between San Jose’s Tyler Kennedy and Kyle Quincey. There was another scrum that ended with Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi throwing his helmet at Tommy Wingels and then a later one between San Jose’s Scott Hannan and Dan Cleary.
The teams traded goals in the first period with the Sharks striking fist when Thornton carried the puck into the offensive zone and waited patiently for Pavelski to break free of Henrik Zetterberg. Thornton then threaded a perfect pass into the slot that Pavelski one-timed past Howard for his 20th goal.
The Red Wings answered late in the period when Tatar held the puck behind the net while Marc-Edouard Vlasic was without his stick. Tatar then skated in front and lifted a backhand past Niemi.
“I saw the one guy without a stick and looked up to try and pass,” Tatar said. “When no one came over to help I choose to take it. The puck was following me tonight. It’s too bad I only scored one goal. I had plenty of other opportunities.”