SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Now that Jonathan Cheechoo has everyone's attention,
the hockey world finally might notice the San Jose Sharks. Another home playoff
victory put the Colorado Avalanche on the run.
Patrick Marleau scored his NHL-leading seventh goal of the postseason, and
Cheechoo scored a between-the-legs goal in the Sharks' 4-1 win over Colorado on
Saturday in Game 2 of the second-round playoff series.
Marleau, Cheechoo and Vincent Damphousse each had a goal and an assist as
the Sharks took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Evgeni Nabokov made 20
saves despite getting flattened by Peter Forsberg, and Wayne Primeau added an
empty-net goal to push the Sharks within two victories of the franchise's first
trip to the conference finals.
Except for Cheechoo's highlight-reel goal, not much was flashy about the
speedy, workmanlike Sharks _ but they headed to Game 3 in Denver on Monday with
all the momentum.
``I think most hockey people know about us,'' said Marleau, who had a hat
trick in the series opener. ``Maybe we don't get all the attention that some
teams do, but we're just focused on our goals.''
The Sharks are still swimming under the international radar during the best
season in franchise history. They don't have superstars, and they play on the
West Coast in a warm-weather town with not much general interest in hockey.
But Cheechoo's goal will be a highlight-reel staple for the foreseeable
future _ and everything else could change quickly if the Sharks build on their
outstanding playoff start.
The Sharks recovered from an early deficit and led 2-1 entering the third
period, but it was a tense game until Cheechoo, a 28-goal scorer in the regular
season, surprised even himself.
During a power play, Brad Stuart took the puck low and made a slow pass in
front to Cheechoo, who put his stick backward between his legs and flipped a
shot past Aebischer's glove in one fluid motion. Coach Ron Wilson didn't
believe his eyes until he checked the Sharks' replay monitor on the bench.
``I don't think I've ever even practiced that,'' Cheechoo said with a
sheepish grin. ``I was just running out of options. Their sticks were in the
way, in the way, in the way, and I had to try something.''
Niko Dimitrakos had two assists, including an exceptional pass to Marleau to
set up the captain's goal in the final minute of the second period. Dimitrakos
has five assists in the Sharks' two second-round games, both models of San
Jose's relentless discipline, puck possession and strong defense.
Milan Hejduk scored for the Avalanche, who lost the first two games of a
playoff series for the first time since the 1999 conference semifinals. David
Aebischer improved on his subpar opening-game performance with 20 saves, but he
had practically no chance to stop any of the Sharks' goals.
``We have to win Game 3. We have no choice,'' Avalanche captain Joe Sakic
said. ``We get a little sloppy when things don't go our way, and we have to
turn that around. They have the jump on us. We're getting outworked. They're
playing with a lot more intensity than we are.''
The Avalanche lost their cool in Game 1, starting four fights in the final
seconds of their 5-2 loss. They were vastly improved in the rematch, keeping
their composure and taking an early lead when San Jose had a rare lapse in
discipline, getting caught in a sloppy line change.
Nabokov was left defenseless, and Matthew Barnaby set up Hejduk's fourth
goal of the postseason. But although Forsberg played his usual dominant game,
the Avalanche couldn't score again _ and Forsberg's aggression also resulted in
two key interference penalties in the second period.
``Sometimes you get the calls, but I'm not happy with the way we're
playing,'' Forsberg said. ``We need to take care of things on our home ice. We
definitely need to play better. They have outplayed us.''
Damphousse scored on the power play following Forsberg's first penalty of
the period, and his apparent goal while running over Nabokov moments later was
waved off. Forsberg complained bitterly on his way to the box.
Sakic also set up Cheechoo's goal with a boarding penalty in the third.