LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jonathan Cheechoo is now scoring goals two at a time.
Cheechoo connected twice on power plays in the second period, and Alexander
Korolyuk also scored with the man advantage as the Sharks beat the Los Angeles
Kings 5-3 Thursday night.
``This is probably the best streak I've been on ever since I've turned
pro,'' said Cheechoo, who had nine goals in 66 games as a rookie last season.
``Everything just seems to be going in.''
It was the third two-goal effort in four games by Cheechoo, who scored twice
in the final 1:37 of regulation in a tie at Dallas on Tuesday.
``We saw what we had in him last year, but we just had to make some room so
he'd have a chance to grow _ and he has,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.
``We expected him, with increased ice time, to score and maybe produce 15 or
20 goals. But I don't think anybody projected 25 or 30 goals from him. He's
obviously hot, and that's what happens to some players _ especially
goal-scorers. So you have to keep riding them.''
Curtis Brown also scored twice for the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, who
lead Dallas by three points.
``At this point of the season, it doesn't matter what team you're playing or
where you're at. It's playoff time. So every time you go out and lace them up,
it's a huge game,'' Brown said. ``But you don't want to get too far ahead of
yourselves, and we're definitely not doing that.''
Lubomir Visnovsky and Derek Armstrong scored power-play goals, and rookie
Esa Pirnes got his first career short-handed goal for the Kings, who remained a
point behind Nashville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with
nine to play.
Los Angeles' loss clinched a playoff spot for Detroit.
Roman Cechmanek returned after missing 12 games with a groin injury, but was
pulled after giving up four goals on 13 shots through the first two periods.
``I haven't played for a long time, but I have to be ready for every game. I
can't play like this,'' said Cechmanek, who had the second-lowest goals-against
average in the NHL last season with Philadelphia.
The Kings tied it 2-all at 17:20 of the first period when Visnovsky beat
Evgeni Nabokov from the slot.
But San Jose regained the lead for good at 1:05 of the second when Cheechoo
converted a rebound of Patrick Marleau's short backhander.
``Cechmanek plays an unorthodox style,'' Cheechoo said. ``At times, he's on
top of it and you can't get a puck past him. But tonight he was playing for the
first time in a while, so we just tried to throw everything at the net and
pucks started finding their way in.''
Cheechoo made it 4-2 at 15:39 of the second, shooting in Tom Preissing's
one-timer from the high slot for his 25th goal. Armstrong responded 38 seconds
later with his 14th goal, redirecting Visnovsky's one-timer from the high slot,
but Brown put it away with an empty-net goal.
The Kings scored on their first shot against Nabokov, but the Sharks
connected on their first two against Cechmanek.
Pirnes intercepted a short pass from Niko Dimitrakos to Vincent Damphousse
at the blue line and went in alone on Nabokov.
There were still six seconds left on San Jose's power play when Korolyuk
converted a backhanded pass through the slot from Nils Ekman and beat Cechmanek
high to the glove side. It was Korolyuk's career-high 15th goal, one more than
he had in 1999-00 with the Sharks.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead at 6:43 of the first period when Brown
stickhandled around Miller in the left circle and slid the puck past
Cechmanek's outstretched right leg. It was Brown's 10th goal of the season and
first in four games since joining the Sharks from Buffalo on March 9.