The San Jose Sharks
are headed back to the Shark Tank instead of the golf course.
The Sharks avoided what would have been their first series sweep in 13 years by rallying for a 2-1 victory over Dallas on Wednesday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series. The fifth game is Friday night at San Jose — where the Stars won the first two games of the series before taking Game 3 at home on Tuesday.
"We had nothing to lose," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "So we went out there and had fun. We'll embrace the challenge to make history in coming back from a 3-0 deficit.
“We've been sitting back too much and not playing Sharks hockey. There were a few blips, but that was a pretty solid effort. It was an impressive effort. Our special teams were impressive, obviously — we scored a power-play goal and got another shorthanded."
But going back to San Jose may not be a good thing for the Sharks. Dallas is 8-0-1 in its last nine visits to the Shark Tank, and the visiting team has won 14 of the last 18 meetings between the Pacific Division rivals.
“We’re looking to do what we know we can do,” said Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, who made 22 saves. “We’ll give everything we have to win Game 5.”
San Jose lost the first three games after scoring the first goal. This time, the Sharks allowed the first goal, then came back to win.
Patrick Marleau tied the game with his second shorthanded goal in two nights midway through the second period, and Milan Michalek put San Jose ahead to stay early in the third with a power-play goal — only the second of the series for the Sharks.
Evgeni Nabokov wasn’t severely tested after that — Dallas had just five shots in the third period and 18 for the game. His best stop came with just under a minute left when he stopped Niklas Hagman’s stuff try with his right pad.
“They did a good job getting their sticks in there to create turnovers,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “We didn’t quite get the bounces we did previously.”
The Stars also paid the price for a lack of discipline. They gave San Jose six power plays — five on stick fouls — while getting only three. Michalek’s goal came on the Sharks’ fifth advantage.
"Our discipline was one of our keys to success and we lost it tonight," Morrow said. "We put together some good shifts but its tough to gain momentum when you are killing penalties that often. We knew they weren't going to quit on us and we need to go in and focus on the next game."
For now, the second-seeded Sharks avoided being eliminated in the second round for the third consecutive year. They lost to Detroit in six games last year and fell to Edmonton in six in 2006. San Jose hasn’t made the Western finals since 2004, when the Sharks lost in six games to Calgary. The Sharks avoided being swept for only the second time in franchise history; the only time they’ve lost four straight was to Detroit in the 1995 Western semifinals.
The Stars haven’t swept a series since beating Edmonton in four games in the first round in 1999, the last time they won the Stanley Cup. They’re trying to make the conference final for the first time since 2000, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to New Jersey.
The tight checking that prevailed in the first three games of this series continued into Game 4, with the Stars getting seven shots in the first period and the Sharks just four — despite having three power plays, during which they managed only one shot. Dallas’ best chance came during the Sharks’ third power play, but Nabokov robbed Jere Lehtinen on a shorthanded bid.
Lehtinen didn’t miss his next opportunity, beating Nabokov after a giveaway to give Dallas a 1-0 lead at 5:25 of the second period. Sharks rookie Devin Setoguchi had the puck in the corner to the right of Nabokov and backhanded it carelessly into the slot. Lehtinen easily picked off the pass and quickly wristed the puck high past Nabokov’s catching glove for his first goal of the series.
It was the first time in the series that the Stars scored first and came on Dallas’ first shot of the period.
With a delayed penalty coming to the Sharks, Richards almost made it 2-0 about 8½ minutes into the second period, but his backhander from close in plinked off the crossbar.
''It's a game of inches, it was close,'' Richards said. ''You'd like to have those chances back but that's not the way it is.''
But after Ryane Clowe was called for interfering with Richards at 8:32, the Sharks tied it when Marleau scored his second shorthanded goal in as many nights. San Jose’s captain picked off a cross-ice pass by Sergei Zubov at his own blue line, outraced the defense and beat Turco with a 10-foot wrist shot from below the right faceoff dot at 9:19. He became the first player in NHL history to score shorthanded goals on consecutive days.
Zubov was also the culprit on Tuesday night, when Marleau scored a shorthanded goal in Dallas’ 2-1 overtime win.
“Those were uncharacteristic mistakes by Zubie,” Tippett said of his All-Star defenseman, who returned in Game 2 after missing more than three months with injuries. “''Those are mistakes that you'd like to see cleaned up.''
Marleau wasn’t part of the Sharks’ League-best penalty-killing unit during the regular season.
''He hasn't played penalty kill all year long,'' center Joe Thornton said. ''He just has great speed. And obviously when he gets the chance, he's going to put it in the back of the net. That gave our bench a huge lift.''
Clowe was called for another penalty, this one for elbowing Morrow at 13:22, but again the Sharks had the best chance. San Jose came down on a 3-on-2 rush, but Pavelski fired wide from the right circle halfway through the power play.
Nabokov kept the game tied with just under four minutes to go when he managed to cover the puck in the crease with the Stars batting away at it. The period ended 1-1, although the Sharks outshot Dallas 11-6 for the period and 15-13 through 40 minutes.
Turco came up big in the first 45 seconds of the third period, stopping Cheechoo at his left post, getting a toe on Michalek’s rebound try and foiling Cheechoo again from in front.
The Sharks got their fifth power play when Modano drew a delay of game penalty at 2:41 for backhanding the puck out of the rink, and San Jose got only its second man-advantage goal in 17 tries during the series when Michalek, battling for position at the top of the crease, deflected Joe Thornton’s pass behind Turco at 3:26.
San Jose then went into shutdown mode, limiting the Stars to just three shots over the next 15 minutes while controlling the puck in the Dallas zone for long stretches.
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.