San Jose exploded out to a 3-1 lead in Game 4 of the series with Edmonton in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil. Then, the unthinkable happened as the Oilers put up five unanswered goals to take the contest 6-3 and tied the series at 2-2.
“It was a good start,” said Scott Thornton. “We got the first goal and the lead. We took our foot off the gas pedal.”
Team Teal did have opportunities, but lady luck would not fall their way. Already up 3-1 in the second period, Joe Thornton
hit a goal post on a two-on-one shorthanded chance that could have buried the regrouping Oilers. Later, Jonathan Cheechoo also just missed on a scoring chance.
“We had our chances to go up 4-1 or 5-1,” said Joe Thornton
. “I had one of those chip shots where you just try to get it over him. Cheech just missed. There was loose puck in front of the net and we didn’t get it.”
“We were in control,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “We had a chance shorthanded to make it 4-1 and a couple of bounces didn’t go our way.”
Wilson gave credit where credit was due.
“Roloson gave them some big saves,” said Wilson.
Edmonton found that a few home-ice bounces were the key at that point.
“There were some weird bounces in the second and it took our confidence and away,” said Joe Thornton
The first came when a shot wide of Toskala went to the rear boards but bounced back directly to Michael Peca who tossed it into the net before Toskala could close on the near post.
“It was more the Peca goal that put us back on our heals,” said Wilson. “It hit under his arm and went in.”
You could watch hockey for 24 hours a day for the next 10 years and likely not see another play as strange as the one that led to Edmonton’s third and tying goal.
The Sharks had hemmed the Oilers in their zone for nearly the entire duration of a two-minute power play. Just prior to the minor on Sergei Samsonov expiring, Nils Ekman tried to stuff a puck past Roloson on the short side. The Oiler goaltender got his blocker on the attempt and the puck ricocheted three-quarters of the way down the ice, just as Samsonov was exiting the penalty box, causing Vesa Toskala to rush out and play the puck.
The Sharks netminder beat the Russian forward to the loose puck, but Samsonov deflected his clearing attempt in the air and it landed behind the Finnish netminder. Samsonov then simply had to push the puck 15 feet across the goal line into an empty net.
“It was not a good play and my mistake,” said Toskala of the tally that tied the match at three. “Maybe I could have used two hands.”
“It was a bad bounce,” said Hannan. “Vesa comes out and the puck goes into the air and right to Samsonov.”
Toskala allowed five of the six tallies. He was replaced by Evgeni Nabokov after the Oilers fifth goal. (Nabokov allowed one goal on a five-on-three power play).
“I saw the puck well, but made a mistake at a bad time,” said Toskala.
Wilson pulled Toskala following the fifth tally, but it was more to give the starting netminder a break and to maybe change the moment.
“Tosk has gotten a lot of work,” said Wilson. “It gives him a little rest and Nabokov a chance to get in there.”
San Jose would have preferred an opportunity to close out the series in San Jose, but still control home ice advantage in the series.
“We have to get ready to win on Sunday,” said Toskala of the 7:00 p.m. start on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. “We have home ice and it’s in our building.”
“The series is tied 2-2 and Sunday we play in San Jose,” said Ville Nieminen.
Nieminen hopes the Sharks have more than just the fans ready for Game 5.
“We have to make sure our legs are moving,” said Nieminen. “We were a little soft in some key areas of the game when it mattered and we have to get ourselves out of bed as soon as possible.”
Wilson knows the home crowd played a role in the two opening games and is looking for some home cooking on Sunday.
“We’ll get back for some home cooking,” said Ron Wilson. “Our crowd is louder than theirs and they will really be into it.”
In a series where there has not been a road club victory, home ice is extremely important.
“We worked hard at the end of the year so we could possibly have home ice,” said Scott Hannan. “We win at home and we win the series.”
While the HP Pavilion faithful are a key advantage to playing at home, there are some hockey details that are important as well.
“We get the last change and to feed off the crowd,” said Hannan. “Both teams have been more physical at home and you can draw that from the crowd. I’m looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd.”
BEST OF 3
The two clubs have each protected their home turf and in doing so, turned the seven game series into a three game series.
“We have to win two of three and we have two at home,” said Steve Bernier.
FIRST BIG LOSS
The first three contests were all one-goal games, so Game 4’s 6-3 final was a bit of a surprise.
“If you lose 3-2 or 6-3, it doesn’t matter at this point,” said Wilson. “We have a positive makeup in our room and we’ll shake this off.”
While it was expected that Milan Michalek would dress for the game, he was a late scratch.
“He brings another dimension,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
. “He has speed, a hard shot and he is a big body. He definitely makes a difference.”