Call him “Hat Trick Patrick.” Call him “Captain Clutch.” Patrick Marleau did it in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil this time – scoring his third career playoff hat trick in front of another sellout crowd of 17,496 fans at HP Pavilion. It marked Marleau's third hat trick in his last four playoff series.
"It is a funny business," said Ron Wilson. "When you work hard, you get rewarded and he has been working as hard as anybody and paying attention to detail. It was great to see him get the hat trick. Our fans go nuts over stuff like that."
Marleau, who has already scored six goals in the Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. the Nashville Predators, helped propel the Sharks to a commanding 3-1 lead in the series by leading his team to a 5-4 victory.
The hat trick gives Marleau an NHL-leading seven points (six goals, one assist) in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs and equals the Sharks all-time franchise record in playoff scoring with 38 points (25 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games. He now stands even in the Sharks record book with former Sharks Vincent Damphousse who tallied 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 53 career playoff games with San Jose.
Despite the evening’s heroics, Marleau downplayed the hat trick and remained focus on the matter at hand: advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
“The main thing is we got the win,” he said. “Too bad it took all five (goals) to get it. We kind of let-up there at the end. They’re all big games no matter what, but in order for us to get this one done, it was huge.”
Marleau notched his fourth goal of the series and first of the evening by deflecting a Christian Ehrhoff slapshot past Predators goaltender Chris Mason midway through the second period. The power play goal tied the game at two and took San Jose out of the unfamiliar position of trailing on the scoreboard.
Despite being behind in the game, Marleau knew that his teammates would respond to the temporary deficit.
“In the playoffs, you can’t get down on yourselves,” said Marleau. “You’ve got to try to keep positive the whole time. Sometimes it’s hard but we have to do that. If they get up a goal, we can’t put our heads down. We’ve got to go back out there and play that much harder and work that much harder.”
Just 1:46 later, Marleau would strike again. This time Nashville Defenseman Shea Weber was sent to the penalty box for interference. The Sharks would take full advantage of the power play situation as they would soon receive a two-man advantage when David Legwand was penalized for holding Mark Smith. Marleau would strike shortly thereafter on another deflection, this time receiving the pass in front from Joe Thornton to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead.
“We’ve seen it all year with him and Cheech,” said Marleau about teammate Joe Thornton. “With his reach and vision, you try to get your stick in the right spot.”
Seconds after successfully killing their fifth penalty of the game Marleau took a pass from rookie Steve Bernier and scored his third goal of the game, giving him the hat trick and, more importantly, giving the Sharks a 5-2 lead.
Marleau’s goal would prove to be the game-winner, as the Sharks allowed Nashville to crawl back into the game. Two late goals by Predators RW Mike Sillinger and LW Scott Hartnell kept the game close and kept Sharks fans in their seats until the contest was over.
The victory gives San Jose the upper hand in the series as both teams head back to Tennessee for Sunday’s Game 5 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville. But the Sharks know that they will have to be at their best if they hope to advance to Round Two over the weekend.
“We feel good,” said Marleau. “We know these guys aren’t going to give up or go away. We know we still have our work cut out for us. We scored some goals, but that was probably the hardest win for us to get. We want to go in there and try to finish it. They’re going to be coming at us and we’ve got to be ready. I expect them to be coming at us like they did late in the game. We’ll be on our toes and ready for that.”
But at least for tonight, “Captain Clutch” can relax and enjoy knowing that the Sharks have put themselves in a great position to move forward in the playoffs.
“It’s just a great time of year,” added Marleau. “Everybody’s pulling for each other. Everybody’s working together to get the job done. It’s a lot of fun.”
"He's our captain and we're just going to ride him all the way through," said Mark Smith.