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Sharks stay alive with 3-2 overtime win @NHLdotcom

Eric Stephens | Correspondent

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Todd McLellan has been practically begging his star players to play like stars. In turn, Joe Thornton asked his first-year coach to reunite the unit that led the San Jose Sharks to their first Presidents' Trophy.

With another playoff failure and an off-season of more hard questions looming, the Sharks' big guns delivered when they absolutely had to Saturday night.

Patrick Marleau somehow got a loose puck past Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller during a scramble 6:02 into of overtime while Thornton and fellow linemate Devin Setoguchi scored their first goals of the series in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

San Jose managed to stave off elimination in the NHL's first all-California series in 40 years. The Ducks still have two chances to upset the top-seeded Sharks, beginning with Game 6 at the Honda Center on Monday night.

Marleau's two goals in the series have won both games for the Sharks, who fell into a 3-1 hole to eighth-seeded Anaheim despite racking up 26 more points than their Pacific Division rival during the regular season.

His goal in Game 5 kept their season alive. The Sharks' longtime captain went to the net to get a pass from Thornton and kept whacking at the puck as Hiller couldn't secure it during a scramble in the crease.

The puck got behind Hiller, who appeared to nudge it into the net when he tried to reach for it behind him while Marleau kept jabbing away.

"Joe got a couple quick shots off, and I was able to score in front of the net," said Marleau, whose 10 playoff game-winners since 2002 are tops among all NHL players. "Obviously, he made a great pass. It was just kind of laying there and we just kept jabbing at it and finally got it across that goal line."

Thornton started the whole sequence by putting two shots on Hiller and getting the puck back to make the timely pass.

"Just like basketball," he said. "You shoot and follow your rebound. That's all I tried to do. I shot it and it came out to me. I just wrapped it around and Patty just was determined to put in the back of the net. He made a heck of a play."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle objected, claiming that Marleau had pushed his goalie to force the puck over the line.

"The reason the puck went in the net was because their player pushed our goalie's pad, which is attached to his skate, which knocked the puck in the net," Carlyle said.

Hiller said he couldn't determine if Marleau had pushed him -- and the puck -- into the net.

"I didn't really see it," Hiller said. "I was just looking for the puck, so I really didn't pay attention to who was pushing or who did what. I don't know. It's not my decision if it's a goal or not. It's the referee's decision."

Referees Dennis LaRue and Kevin Pollock decided that the goal counted, capping a big game for the line that led the Sharks all season. Thornton finally broke through with a power-play goal in the first period off a rebound created by Marleau, and Setoguchi gave San Jose a 2-0 lead when he snuck a shot in between Hiller and the left goal post late in the second period.
"We are obviously happy with their performance tonight," McLellan said. "They were challenged in the locker room by the coaching staff and this is supposed to be their time of the year."

The Ducks got goals early in the third period from Ryan Carter and Corey Perry, and both teams had several chances in the final 15 minutes of regulation and the first minutes of overtime.

McLellan broke up the Thornton-Marleau-Setoguchi line after the Sharks were shut out in Game 1. Until Saturday, the only goal produced by any one of the trio was Marleau's third-period winner in a 4-3 victory.

With none of them doing much apart, Thornton spoke with McLellan on Friday.

"We wanted to get back together," Thornton said. "We feel with us three together, we work good together. We have good chemistry together and we've worked all year together. We wanted to get back together."

Earlier, McLellan said that his core players needed to win the battle with the Ducks' core players. For one important night, the coach got what he wanted.

"They got a pretty good break on that first goal, off Jonas' mask and right on his tape," Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger said of Thornton's goal. "At some point, they're bound to get some goals here and there, points here and there. It's up to us to try to shut them down. Hopefully we can do a little bit better job on Monday."

Ryane Clowe's hard work didn't lead to a goal, but his effort in winning one-on-one battles led to a shift where he and San Jose linemates Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek, along with support from defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich, kept Anaheim bottled up in its own zone for 40 seconds and forced the Ducks to ice the puck.

Scott Niedermayer didn't get the goals but the Ducks' captain was responsible for putting both of Anaheim's scoring plays in motion. Niedermayer's lead pass to Andrew Ebbett helped the diminutive center get loose to set up Ryan Carter's goal and the defenseman would later draw three Sharks to him before slipping a perfect pass to an onrushing Corey Perry on the right wing so the sniper could beat goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
There were many heroes for the Sharks but the Clowe-Pavelski-Michalek line was strong all night even though it didn't get rewarded on the scoresheet. If it wasn't Clowe winning battles in the corners, it was Pavelski and Michalek using their speed to continually put pressure on the Ducks' defense and keep goalie Jonas Hiller busy.

Even before he scored his first goal of the series, Sharks center Joe Thornton was engaged from the outset as he mixed it up with his counterpart, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, both verbally and physically. Thornton drew penalties against Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who objected to Jumbo Joe's treatment of his linemate by cross-checking the center three times.

Hard to look past the 45 saves that Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller had to make to keep his team in the game long enough so that they could come back and force overtime. A veteran of the Swiss National League A in his homeland, Hiller withstood the most persistent offensive attack the Sharks put together all series. San Jose seemingly had quality chances all night but Hiller stood tall in the net.

The Sharks broke through with three goals, but Hiller simply is going to be difficult to beat. Devin Setoguchi's goal in the second period is the first soft one that the Swiss-born netminder has allowed, and that only came on the Sharks' 26th shot after Hiller had made numerous outstanding saves to keep Anaheim close.

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