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Cheechoo's Hat Trick Boost Sharks Past Blue Jackets, 6-3

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

Thanks to four points from both Joe Thornton and Nils Ekman, as well as a hat trick by Jonathan Cheechoo, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by the final score of 6-3.

San Jose took to the ice Thursday night for the first time in six days. Vesa Toskala, who performed well in the team’s 5-2 victory vs. Colorado on Dec. 30, earned his second consecutive start, while Marc Denis manned the net for Columbus.

Four minutes into the contest the Sharks would gain the early advantage. Ekman fired a shot on goal that Denis made a good stop on. The puck slid out to the left where Joe Thornton was able to corral it, fake a shot and pass it to Cheechoo. Cheechoo had virtually a wide open net, as Denis had over committed on Thornton’s fake, and the right winger knew exactly what to do with it. The goal marked his 21st of the season and gave the Sharks the early 1-0 lead.

The Sharks nearly made it a two-goal advantage when Duvie Westcott tried to clear the puck out of Columbus’ zone, but his attempt hit off Nils Ekman’s shin guard, allowing him to skate in alone on Denis. The netminder would make the save, but less than one minute later the Sharks really would strike.

Ekman wristed a shot on goal that bounced off Denis in front of the net and towards the direction of Joe Thornton who was crashing the net. Thornton’s big frame and long reach allowed him to poke the puck past Denis with one hand, making the score 2-0.

Columbus earned the first power play of the night when Doug Murray was sent to the box for boarding. Just 55-seconds later, Kyle McLaren was whistled for delay of game after he shot a puck over the glass. San Jose would kill off the 1:05 two-man advantage, but with 40 seconds remaining in the McLaren's minor, Columbus struck.

Toskala turned away a Sergei Fedorov attempt after he made an unbelievable stop, stacking the pads. However Rick Nash corralled the rebound and mustered two shots on net. The second one roofed past Toskala, who was still down on the ice. Columbus had cut the deficit to one.

Two minutes later, Mike Rupp would tie the game at two when he immediately shot a puck that came all the way around to him along the end boards. The shot sailed past Toskala’s right shoulder, giving Rupp his third goal of the season.

With just under six minutes left in the first, San Jose went on the power play for the first time after Bryan Berard was sent to the box for hooking. After 54 seconds into the power play, the Sharks would earn a five-on-three advantage when Columbus was called for having too many men on the ice. Despite several quality chances, the Sharks failed to slip one past Denis, who made several good saves during the two minute span.

The period came to a close tied at two, with the Sharks out-shooting the Blue Jackets, 16-12.

Less than three minutes into the second, San Jose retook the lead when Jonathan Cheechoo fired a one timer top shelf on Denis. The shot came directly off a Joe Thornton faceoff win which deflected to Ekman and then to Cheechoo. Cheechoo notched his second goal of the night, giving the Sharks a 3-2 lead.

Nine minutes into the second, Rupp was penalized for interfering with Kyle McLaren. With just four seconds left on the two-man advantage, the Sharks converted, extending their lead to two. A McLaren slapshot sailed just wide of the net, but a quick play by Marcel Goc to get the puck back in front of the net allowed Grant Stevenson to push it past Denis. The Sharks now led 4-2.

McLaren delivered what was, hands down, the biggest hit of the season when he hip checked Trevor Letowski, sending the right winger spinning into the boards. Letowski would be helped off the ice after a break in the action.

Milan Michalek was sent to the box with 1:30 left in the second for hooking. However, the best opportunity of Columbus' power play went to the Sharks when Josh Langfeld stole a puck and headed down the ice on a breakaway. His bankhander rang off the post and the period came to a close 10 seconds later. Columbus would still have 30 seconds left on the power play when they came out for the third.

Columbus came out of the locker room determined to climb back within one and they did just that 25 seconds in. Nash wristed a shot from the right faceoff circle, slipping it past Toskala for the score for his second power play goal of the game. The Sharks now led 4-3.

Four minutes into the frame, Dan Fritsche crashed into the end boards after hustling after a loose puck behind San Jose’s net. The center would leave the game with help from the team trainer.

At 14:19 Christian Ehrhoff extended San Jose’s lead to two when he fired a shot past Denis after receiving a perfect pass from Scott Thornton. The blueliner notched his first goal of the season, making the score 5-3.

Nikolai Zherdev gave the Sharks another power play when he held the stick of Scott Thornton. It took less than a minute for Cheechoo to fire a one time attempt past Denis. The goal was his third of the night, giving Cheechoo his second hat trick in 16 days. The Sharks lead was now 6-3.

San Jose continued to dominate the third period, firing shot after shot on Denis, but the netminder turned each chance away.

As the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock, the crowd erupted, as the Sharks skated off with the 6-3 victory.

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