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Fans had reason to be optimistic. The Sharks had controlled the puck and forced the action from the start.

But they failed to convert on two power plays in the opening period _ not even registering a shot on the first _ and nearly fell behind again if not for a spectacular save from their goalie. Niemi kept the Red Wings from going ahead first, diving to his left to rob a slap shot by Ericsson with a glove save.

A few minutes later, Joe Thornton won a faceoff in Detroit’s territory and passed it back for a slap shot by Dan Boyle from just inside the blue line. Boyle’s shot was redirected by Setoguchi for his fifth goal of the playoffs to put San Jose up 1-0 with 2:42 left in the period.

The Red Wings were able to kill off another power play in the second to give themselves a chance, only to fail to even get a shot off when they had their own man advantage. Then Pavelski made them pay when he took a pass from Ryane Clowe on a 2-on-1 break, flicking the puck past Howard to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.

The goal also was Pavelski’s fifth of the playoffs, although he didn’t have much time to celebrate. Kronwell scored 53 seconds later with a wrist shot that beat Niemi top shelf with 3:35 left in the period.

Any momentum the Red Wings had entering the final period seemed to end with a thud.

Dany Heatley came out of a scrum along the side boards and shoved a pass ahead to Couture, who finished on a wide-open breakaway past Howard’s left leg 54 seconds into the third period to give the Sharks a 3-1 cushion.

“When we go up 3-1 we usually finish teams off,” Thornton said. “They fought back very hard. We made a couple of careless plays and against their skilled players, they put those in.”

NOTES: Red Wings F Johan Franzen tweaked his ankle and was limited in the third period. … The Red Wings inserted left winger Drew Miller into the lineup and scratched Jiri Hudler. … The Sharks are 7-0 when they lead a series 3-1. … The announced attendance was a sellout crowd of 17,562. … The Sharks fell to 5-1 when they score first in the playoffs.