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No panic in Sharks, who regroup for Game 2

by Eric Stephens
SAN JOSE — In big bold letters, two words screamed out from the front page of the city’s major newspaper Friday, words that likely went through the heads of many fans who watched their beloved San Jose Sharks the previous night.


One game into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the beginning stages of panic are being felt around town. This is what happens when the top seed, a 53-win, 117-point team during the regular season, gets blanked by the No. 8 seed, which just happens to be their biggest rival in the Pacific Division.

The Sharks, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time, have 48 hours to deal with their 2-0 loss Thursday to the Anaheim Ducks before Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals takes place Sunday night at HP Pavilion. But if there’s panic brewing around them, well, they insist they’re nowhere close to feeling it.

"We have a good, solid foundation here," center Joe Thornton said. "We’ve been doing things the right way all year, so it won’t change. All we can do is focus on working hard today, working hard tomorrow and be ready for Sunday.

"Yesterday’s done and today’s a brand new day. You’ve just got to keep working on it."

Anaheim needed only 60 minutes to steal away the home-ice advantage that San Jose worked all season to obtain. In his first NHL playoff start, Jonas Hiller stopped all 35 shots he faced to notch the club’s first road playoff shutout since Ilya Bryzgalov did it in Game 7 of the first round against Calgary in 2006.

A timely power-play goal by captain Scott Niedermayer and a late insurance marker by Ryan Getzlaf were all Hiller needed. Getzlaf also set up Niedermayer’s third-period tally with a nice cross-ice pass for the defenseman’s one-timer past goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Meanwhile, San Jose managed to put plenty of shots on Hiller but never created the presence near the goal crease that would make the netminder uncomfortable. Blame it on the forwards, who largely lost the battles with the Ducks’ blue line.

"For us, it’s sticking to the basics and continue to shoot," Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick said. "Do more of the dirty things, the battles in front of the net, that’s made us successful all year. Their goaltender played well. We outshot them two to one but we have to challenge him more."

In his daily meeting with reporters, Sharks coach Todd McLellan issued a challenge to his players to increase their level of battle in Game 2.

"You can’t win having four of five guys missing in action," McLellan said. "Whether they’re 2 ½- to three-minute players or 21 ½- to 22-minute players … when you’re out there, you have to contribute. I think we’ll be better in that area. We need everybody pulling."

McLellan didn’t single out anyone in particular but it’s clear that the Sharks’ two best players, Thornton and Patrick Marleau, need to become more of a factor. Marleau played 21 minutes, 39 seconds and Thornton logged 20:59, but each had just one shot on goal.

"Most of our offense this year has run between those two players," McLellan said. "If we’re going to move on, they have to produce offensively."

It won’t be easy. The Sharks have to contend with Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, two past Norris Trophy winners, along with minutes-eater Francois Beauchemin. Beauchemin played 22:30 in just his third game back after undergoing surgery in December to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.

Anaheim defenseman Ryan Whitney said his unit was determined to clear lanes for Hiller to view shots and not to let San Jose get second chances.

"We said we wanted to be strong in front," Whitney said. "We wanted to try to box guys out and if we didn’t get there, we’d be picking up sticks and not letting them get rebounds. Jonas did a great job not really giving them a chance to get rebounds. He was sucking them in and making sure nothing was really dropping for them."

A common refrain from the dressing room Friday was that the Sharks have to be willing to get dirty and pay the price — whether it’s in the nature of some players or not.

“I think it has to be reinforced all the time, regardless of who you are,” McLellan said. “It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, I really believe. So if you’re looking at doing that and nobody’s holding you accountable, you’ll probably do it more often than not.

"That’s not what we’re about. We haven’t been that way all year and we’ll continue to push for all the ice we can earn."

Whitney said he’s prepared for a more determined effort from the Sharks.

"I think it’s just going to be a more spirited game," he said. "The crowd will be a little bit more into it. Obviously they’ll be playing with a little more emotion. The pressure’s on them but at the same time, they’re the best team in the League for a reason.

"They have a hell of a team. We know that they’re going to be better."

To deal with this deficit, the Sharks have the knowledge of the 2008 postseason to lean on.

"We’ve been doing things the right way all year, so it won’t change. All we can do is focus on working hard today, working hard tomorrow and be ready for Sunday. Yesterday’s done and today’s a brand new day. You’ve just got to keep working on it." -- Sharks center Joe Thornton
San Jose dropped its first-round opener to Calgary at home and trailed the Flames, 2-1, before rallying to win in seven games. Ultimately, the Sharks lost to Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals, but not until they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit and took the Stars to a fourth overtime in Game 6.

So hold off on declaring another postseason disappointment.

"I was very frustrated and (ticked) off last night," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "You go to bed and you wake up and it’s a new day. I talked about it before the playoffs. You’re going to lose. You’re going to fall behind. You encounter many different situations. Until you lose the fourth game, you’ve just got to keep going about your business. One day at a time.

"Nobody goes 16-0 in the playoffs. … A lot of things are going to happen. You’ve got to turn the page. Every game is a different story. We’ll see what happens."

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