San Jose Sharks left wing Dany Heatley (15) pushes over Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 2, 2010, in San Jose, Calif. The Sharks defeated the Red Wings 4-3 to lead the series 2-0. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
ROMULUS, Mich. - The San Jose Sharks traditionally fare poorly at Joe Louis Arena.
San Jose has won three of nine playoff games in Detroit, losing the last two in the 2007 Western Conference semifinals, and just five of 35 matchups during the regular season.
The top-seeded Sharks beat Detroit twice at home and will put the two-time defending Western Conference champions on the brink of elimination if they win Tuesday night in Game 3 at the Red Wings' storied arena.
"Our history dictates that we haven't played well in that building, so we'll have to try to change that and overcome that situation," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Monday before the team travelled to Detroit. "There is a history and we're aware of it, but what happened has absolutely nothing to do with May of 2010."
The Red Wings might not make it through much more of this month. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said he and his teammates can't let that happen.
"It's definitely a must-win game," Howard said moments after he stepped off the team plane, returning home for the first time in a week.
Joe Pavelski, who has become a playoff star, said San Jose has to want to win just as much as the Red Wings.
"They're a great team over there and they're desperate," Pavelski said. "It's important that we kind of match their desperation."
Detroit needs to figure out a way to slow down Pavelski, the first player to score more than once in three straight playoff games since Mario Lemieux did it in 1992.
Pavelski started his five-game, goal-scoring streak in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche.
"This is what you think about when you're laying in bed a lot of times and you can't sleep," Pavelski said. "You want to score points. You don't know if they will keep coming like that. You can't worry about that. As soon as you feel you shouldn't be doing it, that's when it does stop."
Pavelski, who ranked sixth on the team in scoring during the regular season, has taken advantage of the room he's had to roam. He has scored four power-play goals against the Red Wings.
"We have to play better against him defensively by trying to take his time and space away," Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
The Red Wings were called for 10 penalties in Game 2, leading to two goals by Pavelski. Detroit had six fewer calls go its way.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock refused to criticize the officiating.
"You have to take responsibility yourself," Babcock said. "There's no sense blaming anybody else."
The Sharks have had no one to blame but themselves for being regarded as underachievers in the playoffs in the past. Despite plenty of talent, they haven't got past the second round since their only trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004.
Since falling behind Colorado 2-1 in the first round, San Jose has finally played up to its potential in the post-season by winning five straight with strong goaltending, tight checking and timely goals.
The streak of success helps forward Ryane Clowe and his teammates believe their past at Joe Louis Arena and the playoffs in general is moot.
"We feel comfortable right now about our game," Clowe said. "Maybe back then we weren't playing the way we needed to, but right now we are. We have a lot of confidence."
The Red Wings haven't become meek after carving a reputation as perhaps the best franchise in any sport the past two decades.
They are in the playoffs for the 19th straight time?the longest streak in any league, which started before San Jose had an NHL team. They won their fourth Stanley Cup title during this dominant stretch two years ago and fell just short of repeating last June.
But if Detroit doesn't win Game 3, its season likely will end before the conference finals for the first time in four years.
"We've got to make a series," Babcock said. "Right now, it isn't."