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Home Ice Defended

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
With their second consecutive 2-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers, the Sharks took a strong 2-0 series lead in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil. San Jose has earned the lead the hard way by taking the contest to the Oilers at every turn. The Sharks fans were there at every turn, cheering on the home team at the highest decibels.

“This is awesome,” said Tom Preissing. “It’s why you play hockey.”

Even with the Sharks efforts, they have still had to battle to the end in each contest. With a late one goal deficit two nights in a row, the Oilers pulled Roloson with the hopes of forcing overtime with an extra attacker goal

Once again, their plans were foiled.

“That was big to win two games at home,” said Steve Bernier. “It was very important. Now we have to put those games in the past.

The key to the game came when Edmonton had 1:41 of five-on-three time late in the second and San Jose found themselves minus two players and minus two sticks on the ice. San Jose couldn’t quite clear the zone until Scott Hannan made a diving effort with his hand.

“I thought we were in trouble five-on-three,” said Mark Smith. “Hannan made a great diving save to get it out. We weren’t sure what would happen next.”

“It was not much fun out there,” said Hannan. “It was close to two minutes. Mac, Smitty and Vesa worked hard out there.”

Ron Wilson probably had the best analogy.

“It was like the black knight in Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” said Wilson. “Pieces kept falling off.

Facing a worst case scenario, the Sharks fans screamed their support.

“The fans were so loud,” said Smith.

The players had never seen the scenario before, being down two men and two sticks. From a stick standpoint, it was five to one in favor of Edmonton.

“Smitty and Hannan were battling,” said McLaren, who was part of the threesome making the heroic stand. “The crowd was getting into it and we knew it was a big chance to get the momentum.”

When the trio finally found the bench, they were a bit tired.

“I normally need ten seconds and after that it took 30 seconds,” said McLaren. “I couldn’t catch my breath until we got off. There wasn’t even time to look at the clock out there. It was a challenge.”

Just as play returned to even strength, Edmonton managed to score their only goal.

“I’ve never heard it as loud as when Hannan cleared the puck,” said Wilson. “Had we survived without allowing a goal, the roof would have come off. I’ve never seen two guys without their sticks on a five-on-three.”

Tom Preissing gave San Jose the early lead and continued his offensive charge in the postseason when he found the back of the net through traffic.

“I’ve been telling everyone that most of my assists are second assists and are lucky,” laughed Preissing, who is second on the team in points behind Marleau.

Preissing now has seven points in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs (one goal and six assists)

The physical play was evident for both teams throughout the evening.

“It was a war out there,” said Hannan. “There were so many guys hitting and the game was going back and forth.”

There was one hit that was more than questionable when Raffi Torres, blindsided Milan Michalek well after the puck was gone. The rookie winger had to be helped from the ice, but he would return (with a noticeably swollen eye).

“It was a hard hit, but he wanted to show he could come back,” said Bernier. “It was a great lift to see him back and we worked hard for him.”

Michalek was more worried about working hard for his teammates in the game where he extended his point streak to three games.

“I’m happy we won,” said Michalek. “I didn’t want to leave the guys alone. I wanted to come back and help us win.”

There were several times when Toskala was hit following a save.

“I guess that is just playoff hockey,” said Toskala.

Edmonton will look to take two on home ice and the Sharks know that a firestorm will await them in Game 3.

“They will come out harder than they did the first 10 minutes of Game 1,” said Preissing.

“They will be desperate to win the hockey game,” said Hannan.

The Sharks will have to play Game 3 as they did the first two and they know if Edmonton holds serve on their home ice, the series will be tied again.

“It is important to win one there,” said Bernier. “It is tough to win there. They have a great building and great fans. We won in Nashville and we have to try and do it there.”

”We know they will be coming hard and we have to be ready there if we want to steal a game,” said Vesa Toskala.

The man-advantage was held off the board in Game 1, but it provided the game-winner in Game 2 as the Sharks mixed up the attack a bit.

“We put Patty back at the point and had a little more movement,” said Ron Wilson. “We seemed locked into doing the same play over and over and they were anticipating it. We got a fortunate break.”

The Sharks will fly to Edmonton on Tuesday, but will not practice in either city.

“We’re not skating and will fly mid-morning,” said Wilson. “We’ll get some rest and get ready.”

With an assist on Thornton’s 2nd period game winner, Marleau extends his playoff point streak to seven games (8-3=11 points).

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