SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - With his first hat trick, Jonathan Cheechoo did something that's nearly impossible at the Shark Tank these days: He stole the spotlight from Joe Thornton.
After a first-period goal set up by Thornton, Cheechoo scored on a penalty shot and a beautiful unassisted drive to the net 30 seconds apart in the third period of San Jose's 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Tuesday night.
With thrilling back-to-back goals that caused a shower of caps from the stands, Cheechoo punctuated the Sharks' seventh victory in eight games since Thornton's arrival. While Thornton ascends to a spot among the NHL's scoring leaders with each prolific game, Cheechoo is emerging as a dynamic goal-scorer in just his third season in San Jose.
"This is a great rivalry for us, so it's even better to get it now," said Cheechoo, who leads the Sharks with 16 goals. "That was a lot of fun. I just had to remember to save the right stick. That one's going to my dad."
Scott Parker also scored his first goal in two years for the Sharks, who avenged a 5-4 loss at Anaheim two nights earlier. Evgeni Nabokov did the rest, stopped 33 shots in an entertaining matchup of division rivals growing tired of each other's company.
"We actually didn't get very many good scoring chances, so Cheech did a good job to get the most out of it," Nabokov said. "We had two big chances in the third, and he got us the game."
Cheechoo got a penalty shot with 15:14 to play when Keith Carney apparently took him down to prevent a short-handed breakaway chance. Cheechoo beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the glove side - and then beat him in nearly the same spot moments later, stealing the puck and flying past three Ducks for another score.
Cheechoo has nine goals in eight games while playing on Thornton's line.
"It's amazing," Cheechoo said. "He finds you all the time. You have to be ready all the time."
Thornton earned an assist on Cheechoo's first goal to extend his scoring streak to 14 games. He has three goals and 13 assists in eight games since joining the Sharks in a trade from Boston on Dec. 1, becoming the NHL's second-leading scorer with 49 points.
Petr Sykora and former Sharks star Teemu Selanne scored power-play goals for the Ducks, with Selanne getting his team-leading 17th goal in the closing minutes. Giguere stopped 14 shots, but was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov shortly after Cheechoo's third goal.
"It changed in a hurry," Ducks center Andy McDonald said. "We were on a power play, and next thing you know, it's 4-1."
Both teams were infuriated by the officiating. Sharks coach Ron Wilson complaining about Anaheim's sneaky faceoff tactics, while Carney claimed he didn't pull down Cheechoo to force the penalty shot.
Even the normally placid Selanne blasted referees Kelly Sutherland and Brad Watson for inconsistency.
"I think if the referees would call it like they would normally, like they should be - they get paid for doing this - he would never get the penalty shot and never get the breakaway," Selanne said of Cheechoo's scores. "That was the turning point. They got a 3-1 lead, and then I can't understand it. They've got two referees, and they can't call it."
Thornton's relentless pressure catalyzed San Jose's first score during a two-man advantage just 2:17 into the first period. Thornton found Tom Preissing alone for a slap shot, and Cheechoo easily tucked home the rebound.
San Jose went up 2-0 just 70 seconds later when Mark Smith drew two defenders and made an expert pass in front to Parker, who batted home his first goal since Dec. 10, 2003. The Sharks enforcer missed 30 of their first 31 games after getting hit in the face with a puck in the preseason.
"That's my spot in front of the net, and I just do what I do," laughed Parker, who has six goals in 254 career games.
Sykora added a 5-on-3 goal for the Ducks late in the first period. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer set up the score, earning the 500th point of his NHL career.
"We got the upper hand quick, they did a lot of complaining, and then all of a sudden we had five penalties in a row," Wilson said. "That kind of threw us off our game, and now we don't know what's a penalty and what's not. ... They cheat on every faceoff, and they killed us tonight."
Notes: Thornton leads the NHL with 37 assists. ... Fans booed Selanne every time he touched the puck. Selanne abandoned San Jose for Colorado in 2003, then re-signed with Anaheim before this season. ... Sharks captain Patrick Marleau's scoring streak was snapped after 16 points in the previous seven games.
|PPG - Jonathan Cheechoo (14) ASST: Tom Preissing (12), Joe Thornton (37)|
1 - 0 SJS
|Scott Parker (1) ASST: Mark Smith (6), Scott Hannan (4)|
2 - 0 SJS
|PPG - Petr Sykora (7) ASST: Scott Niedermayer (20), Teemu Selanne (12)|
2 - 1 SJS
|SHG - PS - Jonathan Cheechoo (15) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 SJS
|Jonathan Cheechoo (16) ASST: NONE|
4 - 1 SJS
|PPG - Teemu Selanne (17) ASST: Zenon Konopka (2), Todd Fedoruk (8)|
4 - 2 SJS
|Jonathan Hedstrom Delay of game|
|Chris Kunitz Interference|
|Zenon Konopka Fighting (maj) against Mark Smith|
|Mark Smith Fighting (maj) against Zenon Konopka|
|Scott Parker Hooking against Petr Sykora|
|Scott Thornton Hooking|
|Tom Preissing Hi-sticking|
|Scott Hannan Cross checking against Francois Beauchemin|
|Grant Stevenson Hooking|
|Rob Niedermayer Hi-sticking against Nisse Ekman|
|Nisse Ekman Hi-sticking against Todd Marchant|
|Nisse Ekman Hi-sticking against Todd Marchant|
|Scott Parker Hi-sticking against Scott Niedermayer|
|Christian Ehrhoff Delay of game|