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Sharks And Ducks Engage In Physical Battle

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Sharks Host Ducks In Fresno and Come Away With 4-3 Victory
The San Jose Sharks played host the Anaheim Ducks at the SaveMart Center in Fresno Saturday night. Looking to avenge a 6-3 loss to the Ducks earlier in the week, the Sharks drew three early penalties and quickly went on the power play.
Anaheim goaltender Michael Leighton was up to the challenge as the Ducks killed three Sharks penalties in the first five minutes, including a brief 17-second 5-on-3 advantage.
Shortly after the Ducks killed the third Sharks power play, they went on the offensive. The Ducks struck first as Tim Brent snuck a sharp angle shot past Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, giving Anaheim the early 1-0 lead.
Looking to keep the pressure on, the Ducks then drew two consecutive penalties including a double minor on defenseman Rob Davison for high-sticking. Davison went to clear a puck out of the San Jose zone and his stick inadvertently struck Anaheim’s Dustin Penner in the face. With another Shark already in the box, this penalty gave Anaheim a four-minute man advantage, including 59 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage.
San Jose sent out center Curtis Brown and defensemen Scott Hannan and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to kill the penalty. And they did just that. After containing Anaheim’s attack and killing the 5-on-3 advantage, Vlasic took a high-stick from Rob Niedermayer, effectively killing the remaining time in Davison’s double minor.
Once each team’s string of penalties had expired, the game noticeably took a physical tone. Sharks right wing Steve Bernier got involved with Ducks defenseman Shane O’Brien as the two battled hard in front of the net and exchanged shoves after Leighton froze the puck.
As the collective parade to the penalty box continued, the Sharks again found themselves on the power play. This time, it was a 4-on-3 advantage. As the Sharks power play expired, defenseman Josh Gorges received the puck at the blueline, made a move to find a shooting lane and fired the puck towards the net. With just under seven minutes to play in the period, Gorges’ shot was deflected by Craig Valette, tying the game at 1-1.
The physicality continued as time expired in the first period. Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe made a strong defensive play, checking Anaheim’s O’Brien into the half boards. Taking exception, O’Brien challenged Clowe. As the two grappled, Clowe clearly earned the upper hand, landing several punches before taking O’Brien down to the ice.
As the two teams opened the second period, the physical play continued. Both teams continued taking penalties, but it was the Sharks who drew first blood in the second frame. Sharks left wing Patrick Rissmiller chipped a shot past Leighton after Davison fired the puck from the point, regaining the lead for the Sharks.
On the very next shift, the Ducks answered. On an innocent looking play, Brent lightly directed the puck into the San Jose zone. Nabokov misplayed the puck as it slid below him, unimpeded, into the net. Brent and Penner were both in the area, but the goal was credited to Brent, his second of the game as the teams were tied at 2-2.
Nearly six minutes into the period, Bernier laid a bone-crushing hit on Bruno St. Jacques, catching the Anaheim defender with his head down. Two minutes later, Anaheim’s Corey Perry came to the aid of his teammate, holding Bernier and challenging him in front of the net. Though the two dropped their gloves, the linesmen intervened and moved each towards their respective penalty boxes.
On the ensuing power play, Joe Thornton again re-gained the lead for the Sharks. The reigning League MVP took a pass from Gorges and deposited the puck behind Leighton. Gorges was credited with his second assist of the game as the Sharks lead 3-2.
With five minutes remaining in the second, Davison and Anaheim’s Shawn Thornton jawed at each other in the neutral zone, before deciding to drop the gloves. Davison landed a solid right early, but Thornton returned two shots of his own as the two went to the ice and were separated.
With five minutes to play in the period, Clowe was whistled for a tripping minor, giving Anaheim their fifth power play opportunity of the game. O’Brien converted on the chance, beating Vesa Toskala, who replaced Nabokov halfway through the second. The two teams went into the locker rooms tied at 3-3 after two periods of play.
The two teams entered the ice for the third period with the same amount of intensity that they had in the first two periods. The two teams matched physicality levels with each team taking the body whenever possible.
While players looking for roster spots were sure to take the body, their energy was contagious. Veterans like Patrick Marleau and Thornton each threw monster hits and Mike Grier looked like a human wrecking ball on two separate shifts, hitting anything wearing an Anaheim uniform.
The Sharks continued pressure and physical play lead to a break into the Anaheim zone. With about 12 minutes remaining, Bernier drove the net and chipped a puck toward the front of the net. Bernier’s linemate Thomas Plihal was there at the far post, deflecting home the shot and giving the Sharks the lead for the third time in the game, 4-3.
Plihal’s goal stood to be the game-winner as the Sharks fended off a strong Ducks attack in the waning minutes. Clowe was whistled for a minor, his third minor on the night to go along with his fighting major, and the Sharks played the final 90 seconds on the penalty kill. Again, it was the trio of Hannan, Vlasic and Brown that drew the penalty killing duty, and Grier was also called on to diffuse the Anaheim pressure.
Anaheim threatened, but the Sharks answered, killing the 6-on-4 opportunity as the Ducks pulled Leighton. With the 4-3 victory, the Sharks moved to 3-1 on the preseason.
Overshadowed by the physical tone of the game was the play by the San Jose defensive corps. The Sharks defensemen limited a potent Anaheim attack to just 19 shots, many of which came on Anaheim’s power play opportunities.
Sharks fans got their first opportunity to hear television color analyst Marty McSorley, as he stopped by and assisted radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky on his broadcast.
Goaltender Nolan Schaefer, who played 12 games for the Fresno Falcons during the 2003-04 season, was scheduled to be the starting goaltender for the Sharks. However, Schaefer was unavailable on Saturday night giving way to Nabokov who started in his place.
Rissmiller – Thornton – Stevenson
Plihal – Marleau – Bernier
Clowe – Brown – Grier
Valette – Pavelski – Mink
Hannan – Vlasic
Gorges – Ehrhoff
Davison – Traverse
Nabokov – Toskala
After playing four preseason games in a five-day stretch, the Sharks will have two days off before heading to Canada for back-to-back games. The Sharks will be in Vancouver on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Calgary on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
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