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Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13), of Russia, tries hitting the puck past San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) and goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT -- Some other team will have to be the one to break the Detroit Red Wings' NHL-record home winning streak.

The Sharks had their chance Sunday afternoon and came close before falling 3-2 to their longtime rivals, a loss that ended San Jose's own streak of five wins at Joe Louis Arena, where Detroit has won its past 23 games.

The Sharks' effort was an improvement over recent losses at Tampa Bay and Carolina on this 1-3-1 trip that still has four more stops, but no one was taking any satisfaction in that.

"You don't win a game, you're frustrated," said Logan Couture, who scored the first Sharks goal after the Red Wings had taken a 2-0 lead. "We're on a three-game losing streak right now, and this isn't the time to do that. Teams are closing in. The playoff spot is getting tighter and tighter."

The Sharks' lead in the Pacific Division is down to two points over the Phoenix Coyotes, though the Sharks have two games in hand. Falling out of first place would put them in the mix with everyone else fighting for the bottom three seeds.

Henrik Zetterberg, Drew Miller and Darren Helm provided the Detroit goals, while Couture and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks.

As if trying to win in Detroit these days isn't hard enough, the Sharks lost three players to injuries during a short stretch of the third period. A deflected puck hit Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the face, a slap shot hit Joe Pavelski in the head, and another struck Colin White's knee.

Though both Pavelski and White returned later, Helm scored the winning goal at 7:01 while all three were sidelined.


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"I thought the game changed a little bit there," coach Todd McLellan said of the stretch in which his players absorbed those injuries. "We got flat for about 10 minutes and weren't able to use those minutes well."

Detroit's first goal came at 6:30 of the first period when Zetterberg fired a backhand shot between White's legs that goalie Antti Niemi said he did not see in time to adjust his position.

And at 10:40 of the second period, Johan Franzen jumped out of the penalty box and into the play to give Detroit a three-on-two rush, with Miller converting the rebound of a shot by Justin Abdelkader.

But the Sharks kept the pressure on, and it paid off at 14:33 on a power play when Couture batted the puck high out of the air and it eluded Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald.

"It just popped up, and I whacked it down," Couture said of the play, which survived a video review after it showed Abdelkader made contact with the puck before it crossed the goal line. "Lucky, but we'll take them any way we can get them."

The Red Wings added to their lead, however, after the puck got lost in Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell's skates in the neutral zone and Helm capitalized on the turnover by rifling a shot that beat Niemi on the stick side.

The Sharks closed to within 3-2 with 4:44 left in the game when Marleau poked in the rebound of a shot by Brent Burns after a turnover. The Sharks pulled Niemi with 1:18 left but spent most of their energy protecting the open net.

Niemi's performance was under fire after he allowed six goals in a 6-5 overtime loss in Tampa Bay on Thursday, but McLellan praised his work Sunday.

"Goaltender was much sharper," the coach said. "He accepted the challenge -- both him and (Thomas) Greiss the last couple nights. Hopefully we're going in the right direction."

Geographically, they're going south to Columbus for a Tuesday game against the Blue Jackets.

"Move on, take the positives with the negatives," Couture said. "We need points there. Points are so huge, and we need to find a way to get some."

  • McLellan did not have details on the injury to Vlasic, but he said it appeared the puck hit him in the visor and caught him in the nose.

    The shot taken by former Sharks defenseman Ian White struck the back of Dan Boyle's skate before felling Vlasic, who had to be helped off the ice.

    The shot that hit Pavelski initially was just as frightening. Dropping to the ice just as the Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom fired away, the Sharks forward was hit squarely in the side of his helmet.

    The NHL has established a protocol to follow because of concerns about concussions, and after passing all the required tests, Pavelski was back on the ice after missing about eight minutes.

    "It's bound to happen every once in a while when you go down like that," Pavelski said of being struck in the head. "I'm just glad I took it there and not in the face."

    Pavelski said he wanted to play and had to trust the system the league has in place. But he was aware that he wasn't out of the woods yet.

    "You still hope nothing comes about later, because you have seen guys come back the next day and say something hasn't felt right," he said.

  • The Sharks' Ryane Clowe had the size advantage and earned the decision in a fight with Abdelkader with 5:06 remaining in the game.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.