San Jose and Anaheim locked horns in a dramatic Pacific Division contest as a San Jose victory would clinch the 5th seed in the Western Conference, while a Ducks victory would put them in the driver's seat for the position. Another hat trick by Jonathan Cheechoo gave the Sharks a 6-3 victory over the Ducks.
Seconds into the game, Joe Thornton
put his Hart Trophy credentials up in front of the HP Pavilion crowd when he jammed home a Nils Ekman pass to take over the NHL scoring lead from Jaromir Jagr and put the Sharks up 1-0.
Anaheim looked for the equalizer midway through the period on the power play, but the Sharks penalty killers were spectacular. First Thornton carried the puck to the far end of the ice, and then Matt Carle picked Scott Niedermayer carrying the puck up ice. As the two minutes expired, Scott Thornton skated in alone on Jean-Sebastien Giguere. He was pulled down and the Sharks were on the advantage.
Seconds into it, Ekman set up Cheechoo in the left slot and he drilled the puck past Giguere. The goal put Cheechoo into a tie with Jagr atop the NHL's goal scoring race with 54 and increased Thornton's point lead on Jagr to two.
San Jose faced a dangerous five-on-three Ducks power play, but it was San Jose who proved to be lethal. As Steve Bernier left the penalty box, Mark Smith spotted his for the breakaway situation. Bernier corralled the puck, skated in, picked his position and roofed the shot for a 3-0 lead.
Immediately after Cheechoo left the penalty box, he was sent right back in when he tripped Francois Beauchemin, but the Ducks couldn’t capitalize on their advantage as Cheechoo returned to the ice.
With four seconds left in the first, former Shark Jeff Friesen was called for cross-checking and the Sharks headed to the locker room with a 3-0 lead.
When play resumed the Sharks had 1:56 of power play time left over from the first period. It took just 49 seconds for Cheechoo to notch his NHL leading 55th goal of the season when he forced a puck past Giguere after numerous attempts. The Sharks now led 4-0.
Three minutes into the second Christian Ehrhoff was sent to the box for holding the stick. But 31 second into the penalty, Joffrey Lupul made it four-on-four when he was whistled for high-sticking. Both penalties expired, however, without a goal for either team.
Halfway through the game, the Sharks led in shots 13-12, but had the 4-0 score up on the board. Then Anaheim finally solved Toskala with a power play shot by Ryan Getzlaf, closing the gap to three.
As the period wound to a close, Ekman, who had the setup role for most of the afternoon, finished off his own scoring opportunity off a Cheechoo assist – giving him a career high four point game - and the lead was back to four heading into the break.
Anaheim had to play desperate if they wanted to reclaim the fifth seed and they showed it eight minutes into the third. The game now a 5-2 affair and the Ducks weren’t done. A perfect up-ice pass sent Andy McDonald in alone on Toskala and his deke forced a five-hole opening that made things 5-3 with 11 minutes remaining.
The visiting Ducks looked to make it a one-goal game when they took to the power play with eight minutes left in regulation. The Sharks special teams unit easily fended off the disadvantage and maintained the lead.
With 1:45 left in the contest the Ducks pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker. With two seconds left on the clock, Cheechoo shot a puck from beyond the center line that found the empty net, notching his fifth hat trick of the season. The Sharks skated off with the 6-3 victory.