The San Jose Sharks played host to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night in front of a packed crowd at HP Pavilion and rewarded their faithful with a 4-3 victory, running their winning streak to five. Joe Thornton led the way, either scoring or assisting on all four Sharks goals.
San Jose sent Evgeni Nabokov to the net, while the Hurricanes countered with Martin Gerber.
The Sharks evaded trouble early when Carolina’s leading scorer, Eric Staal, drove the net hard on a breakaway, but slowed up and decided to dish it to his line mate instead. The play went awry and the Sharks killed the opportunity.
It was seven minutes into the first period before the Sharks could muster a shot on goal. Nils Ekman led the charge, but his wrist shot was turned away by Gerber.
The Hurricanes nearly lit the lamp first when Glen Wesley ripped a slap shot from just in front of the blueline. Nabokov made the stop on the shot, but momentarily lost it behind him. Nabokov was able to locate it at the last second and slapped the trickling puck away.
The Sharks went on the power play with just over seven minutes left in the first when Rob Rod Brind’Amour was sent to the box for interference. Team Teal couldn’t manage any shots on goal during their advantage as Carolina went back to full strength.
It was with 3:10 left in the first when the Sharks went on the power play for the second time when Aaron Ward cross-checked Grant Stevenson. Just 21 seconds into the man advantage, Mike Commodore was sent to the sent to the sin bin for hooking. Gerber was whistled 28 seconds later for delay of game. Carolina had committed three penalties in a span of 59 seconds.
San Jose rifled shot after shot on Gerber, but the netminder turned away each attempt. Two of the three penalties expired and the first period ended scoreless despite both teams combining for 20 shots (San Jose 12, Carolina 8).
The Sharks began the second period with 50 seconds left on the power play, but they were unable to capitalize.
Just over four minutes into the second frame, Joe Thornton put the Sharks on the board as he received a pass from Christian Ehrhoff and skated to the right faceoff circle, shooting the puck five hole past Gerber. The Sharks led, 1-0.
Josh Langfeld was sent to the penalty box just seconds later for tripping and Carolina had their first man advantage of the game. The Sharks did most of the damage in the first minute of the advantage, as solid two-way play by Alyn McCauley, Mark Smith and Nils Ekman nearly extended the Sharks lead to two. It was Brind’Amour, however, who would find the back of the net when he wristed a shot off the right goal post and past Nabokov, evening the game at one.
The game got physical ten minutes into the second when Ekman laid a bruising hit on a Carolina forward, sending him to the ice. A near scrap ensued with several teal and white shirts grabbing for each other, but no real punches were thrown.
It was Joe Thornton again who excited the Sharks faithful at the tank after he took a pass from cousin Scott Thornton, snaked into the Carolina zone and perfectly backhanded a pass to Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo proceeded to lift the puck past a sliding Gerber, giving the Sharks the 2-1 lead.
The second period came to a close with the Sharks holding onto their one goal lead. San Jose out-shot Carolina 15-11 during the second frame.
The Sharks came out in the third looking to add to their lead, but it was Carolina doing all the shooting in the early part of the third. Nabokov was a brick wall, stopping every attempt.
San Jose would strike again though when Ekman gave the Sharks a two goal lead. Joe Thornton drove the lane, backhanding a shot on goal that was stopped by Gerber. Gerber left a huge rebound in front of the net in which Ekman would bury for the goal.
Cheechoo would extend their lead one minute later when he took a pass from Ekman and rifled it past Gerber. Once again Thornton was in on the play, notching his third assist of the night. The Sharks now led 4-1.
Carolina would crawl back within two when Staal wrapped around the goal, sneaking one by Nabokov. The goal was shorthanded, making the score, 4-2.
Smith was sent to the box midway through the period. During their advantage, Carolina came dangerously close to scoring again, as they kept continuous pressure on Nabokov, but the netminder was up for the challenge.
Carolina kept eating away at San Jose’s lead, as Craig Adams notched his second goal of the season when he tipped in a puck that was put on goal by Chad LaRose. The goal brought the Hurricanes back within one goal with just over two minutes left in the contest.
Gerber was pulled in the final mintue to try and force overtime, but Nabokov and crew would have none of it and San Jose closed out the 4-3 victory.
San Jose will not play until Friday Dec. 16 when the Washington Capitals come to town. Tickets are still available via the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The 7:30 p.m. faceoff will be available on FSN Bay Area and heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.