Team Teal continued right on rolling Thursday night as their 5-2 victory against Phoenix gave them seven wins in their last eight games. Coupled with an Anaheim loss, and two games in hand on the division leader, San Jose is not just within striking difference, but poised top jump to the front of the Pacific Division.
“Objects are closer than they appear,” said Ron Wilson about being in Anaheim’s rear view mirror. “We are on a good run and Anaheim has a nine-day lay-off, so technically, if we keep up the solid play, we could be in first place in a couple weeks.”
San Jose’s power play had been keying the recent winning trend, but it was the physical play that was directly responsible for Thursday’s win at HP Pavilion. First Rob Davison pummeled Josh Gratton in a first period fight and then Doug Murray railroaded Phoenix captain Shane Doan to the ice.
Phoenix was up 1-0 when Gratton went after Davison, only to get knocked to the ice not one, but twice.
“Personally, I don’t know why the guy challenged Davison when they were up 1-0,” said Wilson. “It gave our players the opportunity to step up as Davy clearly won the fight. They really helped us get ourselves back in the game that way and we kept up the physical play the rest of the game.”
San Jose can trace victories against Anaheim (Mark Bell) and previously with Phoenix (Patrick Marleau
) to Sharks players winning fights and turning the tide.
“We can’t always wait for Joe or Patty to score,” said Davison. “Everyone has to chip in. I was looking to get involved and he helped me. I was surprised because they were up 1-0. We are definitely up there in size in the NHL, so if a team wants to play physical, we are more than capable.”
The fight wasn’t the only physical play on tap for the night as Murray then sent Doan to the ice.
“The next shift Doug Murray made some big hits and we were on our way,” said Wilson. “They clearly took offense to it, but you know, there was nothing dirty. It was just a good hard checking game.”
“I don’t go looking for it, but if a good opportunity comes up, that is part of my responsibility,” said Murray.
“Doug makes the big hits without getting out of position,” said Clowe.
Phoenix played the smart game by limiting the Sharks special teams opportunities and keeping the hottest power play in nearly two decades off the scoreboard. However, Team Teal came up with five even-strength tallies for the victory.
“We haven’t had five even-strength goals in it seems like forever,” said Wilson.
CLOWE STILL HOT Ryane Clowe
has become one of the brighter stories in the NHL as the Canadian Press recently ran a Clowe feature across Canada. As one of the few natives of Newfoundland in the league, he is also one of the NHL’s top goal scorers in January.
Thursday’s might have been his most special tally though as his dad was in town.
“This might have been my dad’s first time in San Jose watching me,” said Clowe. “I just went to the net and turned (for the puck).”
The goal marked Clowe’s ninth in his last seven games and he’s added two assists.
“He’s taken advantage of an opportunity and looks hungry,” said Wilson.
Phoenix has accounted for two of the Sharks recent victories, but it will be their 8-0 loss to Phoenix at the end of 2006 put Team Teal on the right track.
“Now when you look back, that was the best thing that happened to us,” said Wilson. “Losing 8-0 in Phoenix, we were able to address a bunch of issues and get ourselves back on track.”
Steve Bernier suffered a broken toe while in Worcester and will miss the next four to six weeks.
2 POINTS PER GAME Patrick Marleau
scored a goal and added two assists to give him 17 points (6-11=17) in his last eight games. With a goal and assist, Thornton now has 33 points in his last 15 contests.
STREAKING TO 8
With an assist in the second period, Jonathan Cheechoo has extended his point streak to eight games (6-7=13).
COYOTES HEAD COACH, WAYNE GRETZKY:
“From the team’s point of view and work ethic, I am proud of our guys.”
“They have a good team. We had a breakdown on the fourth goal and the defenseman made a good shot. We worked hard and played a physical game.”
“I am disappointed that we lost, but we have some things to build on. It is the last game before the break and we are going to try to go out on a good night. Tonight was a good hockey game and a very physical effort.”