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Marleau's confidence grows with his scoring streak

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fans at HP Pavilion had barely settled in Friday night for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals when forward Patrick Marleau knocked in Joe Thornton's passout for a power-play goal, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead.

Before the first period ended, Marleau scored a second goal, this time on a breakaway, increasing San Jose's lead to 3-0.

"He's back," defenseman Dan Boyle said of Marleau after San Jose's 4-3 victory. "He's back to the Patty we've been accustomed to. He scored two goals. The speed on the second one -- not many guys have that speed in the NHL. He's been a difference-maker. Obviously he's scored in every game so far."

Marleau has four goals in the series and five in his past four games, including the game-winner in Game 7 against Detroit in the conference semifinals. He scored a goal in Games 1 and 2 at Vancouver. On Friday night he also added a third-period assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal by Dan Boyle during a 5-on-3 power play.

"He competed hard," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He was on loose pucks, he skated, he blocked shots. He was good in the faceoff circle. Patty is a multi-faceted player. He's got tons of ability, and he can play in any situation, and when he's playing well, you just turn him loose and let him go."

Marleau didn't score a point in the first six games of the Detroit series -- and after San Jose's Game 5 loss, former Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick, now an analyst for Versus, called Marleau a "gutless" player.

After his two-goal game, Marleau was asked to pinpoint the reasons for his offensive surge and to "confirm" that it's just a coincidence that he got hot shortly after Roenick ripped him on television.

"I think things are just starting to go in. I'm also playing with the best passer in the league," Marleau said of Joe Thornton. "Just getting to some good areas, and he's finding me, and the puck's starting to go in."

Marleau said his confidence is definitely growing as his shots continue to find the back of the net.

"It's nice to produce and help the team win, but what it boils down to is winning right now," Marleau said.  "You do whatever it takes to win. Each line played really well tonight, and we're going to need that again in our next game."

Marleau gave San Jose a 1-0 lead just 3:56 into the game, making the Canucks pay after Maxim Lapierre was penalized for roughing.  Marleau planted himself in front of the net, just left of the crease, took a Thornton pass from behind the goal line and banged it past Luongo.

Late in the first period, Marleau turned on his impressive jets on a breakaway and beat Luongo to the top right corner, putting the Sharks ahead 3-0. Marleau ignited his breakaway by blocking a shot by Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler just inside the San Jose blue line. Thornton jumped on the deflection and threw the puck up the middle, catching Marleau in stride as he blew through the defense.

"Patty was great tonight, and he's been good this series," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "Joe (and Patty), they led us and other guys jumped on board. It's nice to see that. When you're best players are your best players you always have a pretty good chance of winning."

So does Marleau's streak have anything to do with Roenick's verbal shots?

"Oh, I don't know," Clowe said, smiling. "I think there were a couple games in between there where he hadn't scored after the J.R. thing. So no, I'm not going to give that credit to J.R. there."

Actually, it was just one scoreless game for Marleau after "the J.R. thing," as Clowe called it, but who's counting? The Sharks are too busy keeping track of Marleau's points.
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