The Sharks closed out the old year with a bang, jumping all over the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 in the final game of 2005. Nils Ekman led with way, tying a Sharks record with four assists, a mark previously reached seven times, most recently by Owen Nolan in 2002.
Ekman couldn’t recall a game quite like this.
“The first time in the NHL,” said Ekman.
Ekman may have found a home playing alongside Joe Thornton
and Jonathan Cheechoo.
“I’m planning to make the best of this opportunity for myself,” said Ekman. “We all want to be important and make a difference. That’s what makes it fun. I just plan to make the best out of it.”
Ekman extended his four-game point streak with the big night.
The Sharks played what may have been their most complete game of the season.
“I think we played a good game,” said Ekman. “We had some dips in the second period where we were running and gunning and we both got some chances. It is not really the type of hockey we want to play, but overall we’re happy. We came out for 60 minutes. Everybody stuck to it and it was a good effort.”
And when Colorado took the early lead and pulled even from a 2-1 deficit, the Sharks didn’t flinch.
“Any time you can battle back, especially when you’ve been struggling, it is nice,” said Ekman. “ It gives us confidence coming into the new year.”
The Sharks bench boss was happy with the effort.
“We never shied away from what we needed to do,” said Wilson. “They’ve given up a lot of goals five-on-five goals, which is an indication that if we get a forecheck going, we’ll be able to get some offense. They took a lot of penalties early because of the pressure we were applying to them.”
LOOKING FOR THE TRICK Joe Thornton
scored the Sharks first two goals and finished with three points, but Team Teal could not get him the third goal.
“Any chance a guy can get a third, you want to try and set him up,” said Cheechoo. “Hat tricks don’t come along very often. Any time you can set a guy up for one you do it.”
The night marked Joe Thornton
’s first two-goal game as a Shark. With two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton
tied Kelly Kisio for the franchise record for points in a month with 21 (five goals, 16 assists).
NO WARMUP NESSECARY
Vesa Toskala had not started in 11 contests and saw just two shots in relief against Phoenix two nights ago, however, he played outstanding Friday night.
“After a break like that it is always difficult to go in,” said Toskala. “I just decided to enjoy it. “I got a couple of good saves early, so that helped me a lot.”
“He did the same thing last year,” said Wilson of Toskala playing with few starts. “He doesn’t have to play to stay sharp. He’s played well in practice. He gave up the first goal, but he made three or four goals off the bat that showed he was ready to play and that had a calming influence on our team.”
Toskala noted that his teammates helped him out considerably.
“I think we had the one mistake, but outside that, I saw all the shots coming,” said Toskala.
There may have been five goals, but the play of the game might have been a big hit by Rob Davison.
“I saw him in the slot winding up for a shot,” said Davison. “He had his head down so I stepped up to make a hit. Tonight we wanted to play more physical.”
The resulting lose puck turned into the game-winning goal on the other end by Scott Thornton, making a significant difference in the contest.
“I’d like to think so, but did one hit influence the entire game, probably not,” said Davison modestly. “It was a way for me to contribute tonight.
MATCHING LINE Joe Thornton
and Cheechoo are on the same page on the ice as the centerman has contributed to Cheechoo’s NHL leading 13 goals in December. Now they are in step with each other in another fashion, but not something either player would prefer. Thanks to an uncalled highstick by Milan Hejduk, Joe Thornton
lost a few teeth to match those that Cheechoo lost last week.
“I lost three all together,” said Joe Thornton
. “It could be worse, it could be five.”
Thornton argued the point with the referees, even showing the teeth he spit into his glove as well as his bleeding mouth.
“They can’t see everything and they said they didn’t see it,” said Joe Thornton
. “It’s not their fault. Sometimes they get boxed out.”
“He was pretty upset and I said sometimes the refs are going to miss stuff and they obviously did,” said Ron Wilson. “They are going to feel bad enough. Let’s not be yelling and screaming any more. Under the heat of the circumstance, you’re very upset when your teeth get knocked out and the guys that feel the worst about it are the refs that missed a pretty obvious call. You just move on.”
San Jose now has an amazing five days before their next contest.
“We said from the get-go that we don’t play for six days and we need to come out, start strong and finish strong,” said Joe Thornton
ROOKIE D PLAYING WELL
Rookie blueliners Josh Gorges and Doug Murray continue to impress their boss.
“Both Josh Gorges and Doug Murray have added something to our defense that has been missing early in the year,” said Wilson. “They move the puck and have poise with the puck. And obviously with Doug, he is such a threat with the hit. Josh is quick and moves the puck so well. He just has confidence.”
San Jose will be off until next Thursday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. The contest will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.