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Sharks need more of same from top duo

by Eric Stephens
ANAHEIM, Calif. — In order to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton delivered the kind of performance that the San Jose Sharks have counted on during their entire time in the Bay Area.

Now they just have to do it again in Game 6 and, the Sharks can only hope, beyond.

How Marleau and Thornton can follow up their marquee effort could go a long way toward determining if San Jose can force a decisive seventh game when it takes on the upstart Ducks later tonight at the Honda Center.

In a must-win Game 5 on Saturday, Marleau scored his second game-winning goal of the series –the only two he’s had – in overtime for a 3-2 victory while Thornton, his running mate, had a hand in all three goals.

After a sluggish start to the series, the Sharks’ two biggest stars delivered when they absolutely had to. Tonight is another absolute situation for the top-seeded team as it tries to avoid being the eighth No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8 since 1994.

"One wears a ‘C’ and one wears an ‘A’ for a reason," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "They’re supposed to be the leaders and they’re supposed to produce. Come to the rink and be hungry and everybody else is supposed to fall in line. I think that happens when your leadership steps up and produces the way it did last game.

"Everybody else has to fall in line. They have no other choice."

Both Marleau and Thornton didn’t participate in the Sharks’ optional morning skate, as did a number of other veteran players. It’s whether they’re on the ice and engaged from the first puck drop that matters to their teammates.

"They’re the leaders of the team, so anytime guys like that come out and show they’re ready to play, I think it gets everybody excited," winger Jonathan Cheechoo said. "Everybody follows."

Thornton, in particular, was animated from the outset of Game 5 as he took verbal and physical jabs at Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf before and after the initial faceoff. On Sunday, the Sharks’ big pivot joked that he and Getzlaf were talking about "maybe being on Team Canada together" for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"I think that’s just Joe trying to spark himself and his team," Getzlaf said. "It’s expected from a leader like Joe. I don’t expect anything different tonight."
McLellan didn’t mind the sight one bit.

"I think that was a situation that Joe came out and he was prepared and a little bit growly, a little bit grumpy for whatever reason," he said. "It was nice to see Joe have that emotion. He has to bring that again tonight and probably has to bring even more."

In his morning press briefing, McLellan said he hopes Anaheim is feeling the pressure to clinch the series at home after taking 3-1 lead. The Ducks didn’t deny it as they’d like to avoid a Game 7 in San Jose, even though they won Games 1 and 2 at HP Pavilion.

When asked if they were viewing tonight as a Game 7 for them, Getzlaf said, "I think we have to. Anytime you’re in an elimination thing, you definitely need to take that mindset because you’ve got to put a team down when you have the opportunity.

"We played a tough game the other night where we didn’t play very well in the first two periods. We hung in there and hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win that game. We’re in a situation where we’re up 3-2 and we’ve got to try and win this fourth game tonight."

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said his team can’t solely rely on Marleau and Thornton. But they’ll gladly take another big outing from their dynamic duo.

"It’s nice to have those guys step up," Vlasic said. "They’ve stepped up all year and in the playoffs, you need everybody to step up. If they’re not there tonight, it’s not their fault. You need the second line, third line and fourth line. You need all six [defensemen] to step up as well.

"But it’s nice when your big line leads the way."

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