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Michalek Is The Game 4 Hero

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Milan Michalek was a Game 4 star in the Sharks 3-2 victory, posting both the opening and game-winning tallies.  The Czech winger now has four playoff goals in 2007 after scoring twice in 2006.
For the game-winner, Pavelski took the puck along the boards at the goal line and used his world-class speed to blow by the defenders.
“Suter was standing and I knew I could go by,” said Michalek. 
Michalek knows his speed is what will separate him from the rest of the pack more often than not.
“That’s my game and I just try to use it when I can,” said Michalek.
Michalek feels he is a much improved player from this time last year.
“I feel great,” said Michalek.  “This is my second playoffs.  I went through it already.”
“He has game experience from last year and has gained a lot of confidence,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
Plus he knows that his linemates aren’t too shabby either.
“I’m playing with Joe and Cheech and they’re unbelievable,” said Michalek.
Cheechoo feels Michalek has a perfect combination of skills.
“He is big, strong and hard to contain,” said Cheechoo.
He scored a goal in his first career NHL game, but Joe Pavelski would have to wait two playoff contests to make his splash.  Not bad for a rookie center playing in the heart of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On his tally, the Plover, Wisconsin native came down one-on-one with a defender and launched a rocket past Predators defenseman Greg Zanon, who was trying to block the puck.  Instead he provided Pavelski with a perfect screen.
“Every D is different,” said Pavelski who worked with what he was given.  “He held the gap, so I just let it go.  Sometimes it hits the stick, this time it didn’t.”
Pavelski’s teammates know that he is playoff ready, regardless of his rookie status.
“He’s got a nice shot and a burst of energy to get behind people,” said Cheechoo.  “He’s done very well at every level he’s played.  I think he’s can carry over his play in big games.”
While trying to be calm about the tally, Pavelski did show a big smile when asked about his first postseason goal.
“When it went in, it was pretty cool,” said Pavelski.  “It’s always good to get in your first one for your confidence.  If you go five or six, you start to wonder.”
Pavelski’s play has been pretty cool and he now knows the intensity of playoff hockey.
“I got to watch the first two and saw the intensity,” said Pavelski.  “I haven’t played in an elimination game though.”
When Pavelski broke in with the big club earlier this season, the natural center was playing with Patrick Marleau as he is now and once again, the All-Star Captain has deferred from his natural position.  For a second consecutive contest, Marleau manned a wing spot so the rookie wouldn’t have to deal with an unnatural position while breaking into the postseason.
This time it just came together just as it did in the regular season.
“It was just thrown together,” said Marleau.
For as much as the Sharks closed out the game in style, allowing 15 first period shots was not in the game plan.
“We didn’t platy well the first 20 minutes,” said Pavelski.  “They didn’t want to go down 3-1.”
The Sharks know how hard Game 4 was to hold off the Predators, but they know that closing out Nashville in Music City could prove more difficult than last year. 
“It’s going to be tough,” said Kyle McLaren.  “They are a desperate hockey team playing with a lot of passion.  Their home crowd is very loud.”
Team Teal split in Nashville last year, before taking two in San Jose and closing things out in Tennessee.
“That’s big,” said Pavelski.  “There are a lot of comparisons to last year with the timely scoring and where we are right now.  It’s a great building with a great team and we have to be ready.”
“We still haven’t won four games,” said Marleau.  “We kept home ice which is good.  We’ll look to go on the road and finish it up.”
With two assists tonight, Joe Thornton has now scored 13 points (2-11=13) in his last eleven playoff games. He now has five assists in the series.
Cheechoo also picked up two assists tonight giving him eight points (2-6=8) in his last eight games.
With Wednesday’s victory, the Sharks have now won six of their last seven playoff games at HP Pavilion.
San Jose had allowed just one power play goal, after 1:54 of five-on-three time, prior to Game 4.  Nashville’s man-advantage tally on Wednesday came with the goalie pulled for a six-on-four power play.  Thus, the Sharks have not allowed a power play goal while down just one skater.
“They came out and wanted to turn it into a track meet, which would probably be to their advantage. If it’s going back and forth, they don’t have to pay a price down low in their end. After we scored a couple minutes into the game, I think we were content. And, then we were hitting the post as well. We hit the posts a couple times, but that’s not our game. And, over time, they’re probably better at playing that style of hockey than we are. The second period, I think our guys realized that’s not going to be successful in the long run and got a little bit closer to playing our game. We drew some penalties and, again, started that puck possession game in their end and wore them down. And, in the third period, we were even better tonight, until we took the penalty, than were the other night. I don’t think they had a chance until they got that last power play.”
“[Pavelski] has a knack for scoring big goals…He loves to play, loves to be around the rink, doesn’t quite look like the perfect hockey player, but he finds ways to get the puck, and he’s got a sneaky hard shot which they found out tonight. He’s always around the puck.”
“We were a lot better than we were the other night. There is no question.  We were harder on the puck and we created a lot of chances and I thought we had a great first period.”
“Obviously we have our backs against the wall now, but we are good team when we have our backs against the wall.”
“The playoffs are such a little margin of error, but tonight their pucks went in and ours didn’t.  It was really that simple for me.”
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