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Shell-shocked Sharks digest a difficult loss

by Eric Stephens
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Most of the San Jose Sharks' top offensive players quickly left the visiting dressing room in the moments before the media was allowed in following Thursday night's 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

It left a select few to answer how the top-seeded Sharks failed to generate any offense against the upstart Ducks for the second time in the series, which now has San Jose facing a 3-1 deficit heading back home for Game 5.

"We obviously lost a really important game," said goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made 22 saves. "We have to find a way to score more goals. Every time they get the lead, they're a confident team. Somehow we have to avoid that."

Somehow, the Sharks must respond or see a season that featured a franchise record for wins and points that fueled their Stanley Cup aspirations disappear in stunning fashion.

"We're down 3-1 to a team that's playing well," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "A lot of people believe we can probably come back. We need to focus on the guys in the locker room. We just have to show up with a desperate attitude. I think we were lacking that tonight.

"It's a turning point in the series tonight. We needed it more and we didn't get it."

The Sharks' ineptitude allowed Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller to register his second shutout in his first four NHL playoff starts. The 27-year-old Swiss-born netminder stopped 31 shots.

Even though San Jose outshot Anaheim for the fourth consecutive game, it failed to get any from 38-goal scorer Patrick Marleau. Marleau has just one point in the series.

Rob Blake had five shots on goal, while Joe Thornton and Christian Ehrhoff each had four, but none really came close to finding their way past Hiller. Sharks coach Todd McLellan didn't mince words afterward, calling the loss "a disappointment."

"I'm not surprised that they were hungry," McLellan continued. "I'm disappointed that we weren't. The only word I can use is disappointed. I think our character was questioned tonight and we'll have to see how we respond back in San Jose."

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