The San Jose Sharks scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 victory and a 2-1 series lead against Nashville in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil. The line of Patrick Marleau, Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek was a force throughout the night, accounting for three of the four goals, including the opening tally and the game-winner.
“They are all so big,” said Jonathan Cheechoo. “They used their bodies as they have all year.”
“Bernier was outstanding and Milan was great down low,” said Ron Wilson. “Patty had one of the best games I’ve seen him have. He has to lead that line at this time, especially in the playoffs. His experience means a lot to his linemates.”
When the line is grinding down low it makes everything much easier on the defensemen.
“It’s great,” said Scott Hannan. “You get a good rest. It is easier to play when you’re watching them down low controlling the play.”
“Patty’s line gives the defense a tough time, as all our forwards do,” said Christian Ehrhoff.
Marleau led the way with two goals, including a tally that tied the contest midway through the second period. At that point, the Sharks were controlling play, but still trailing 1-0.
“He stepped it up,” said Cheechoo. “It was nice to see. The first one got everyone going and the crowd excited. Patty came through when we needed it.”
When Marleau started up the ice, the Sharks were shorthanded, but on the rush, Kyle McLaren stepped out of the box and skated with Marleau. The Captain was shooting all the way though.
“I think he thought I was trying to pass it back to the slot,” said Marleau. “I was just getting it on net.”
Despite not posting a point, Joe Thornton continues to make his presence felt.
“He’s a beast out there,” said Wilson. “Joe has not gotten the points, but he was totally controlling the play when he was on the ice. It is unbelievable how strong he is and how hard he competes. He holds the puck and then when he makes a move, he draws a penalty. He is very determined right now.”
GAS PEDAL DOWN
San Jose took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but they did not just sit back on their advantage. Marleau and Cheechoo scored late in the third to seal the deal.
“We’ve see other teams up 3-0 and their opponents came back,” said Joe Thornton. “When it was 2-1, we kept the pedal down. It was a great 60-minute effort. The boys played well.”
“It was probably our best effort this year from beginning to end,” said Wilson.
Cheechoo’s goal provided the insurance when his bomb snuck past Chris Mason.
“I used Witt as a screen and he probably didn’t see it until the last minute,” said Cheechoo.
When San Jose fell behind by a goal, there were no worries.
“We kept playing the same way and didn’t panic,” said Kyle McLaren.
“We maintained what we were doing despite being down early,” said Wilson. “It was kid to a test. I’m very proud of our team. We’ve trailed and come back more probably at any time I’ve coached.”
5 ON 5
Nashville has yet to score five-on-five during the series and they have scored just two goals in the last 160 minutes of play.
“We play hard and we never want to allow a goal five-on-five,” said Hannan. “You can’t necessarily plan not to allow any five-on-five goals, but it’s working out that way.”
The Sharks protected their home ice advantage by securing an HP Pavilion victory before what is acknowledged as one of the NHL’s loudest fan bases.
“The crowd gives out a lot of energy and we like to take advantage of our home ice,” said Cheechoo. “They were loud out there and they were all waving the towels.”
“You always know when it’s playoff time here,” said Marleau.
Surprisingly, the victory ended a four-game home losing streak in the playoffs.
Christian Ehrhoff was playing in his first playoff game at HP Pavilion and he made it memorable, posting assists on San Jose’s first three goals and earning the game’s second star.
“He played big for us before and we need him to play like he has,” said Marleau.
Tom Preissing registered two assists to run his playoff point streak to three games, as the blueline continues to chip in offensively.
Steve Bernier’s first playoff goal was a big one as he received credit for the game-winning tally.
“The most important thing is that we got the win,” said Bernier. “It was the biggest goal I’ve scored in the NHL, but if we didn’t win, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am right now.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Nils Ekman and Mark Smith paced the Sharks with five shots apiece. Joe Thornton led everyone in ice time with 24:44. Marleau and Bernier each registered four hits, but none was bigger than Scott Thornton’s leveling of Witt in the third. Michalek earned his first career playoff point with an assist on Marleau’s second goal.
The Sharks and Predators will lock up again Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.