San Jose began the Western Conference-only portion of their schedule with a tilt against the visiting Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at HP Pavilion. Two shootout goals by Michael Peca and Ryan Smyth gave Edmonton a 3-2 shootout victory.
Vesa Toskala started for the second consecutive game as San Jose rested Evgeni Nabokov’s groin as a precautionary measure.
Two and a half minutes into the game, Milan Michalek found Patrick Marleau alone near the faceoff circle and fed the Captain. Marleau set himself and fired, only to see his shot ring off the crossbar. On that same shift, Cory Cross hooked Marleau and San Jose had the game’s initial power play.
It was an Oilers power play that provided the game’s first goal. A Chris Pronger point shot was saved by Toskala, but the rebound came out to Shawn Horcoff at the side of the net and he banged in the first tally.
Edmonton would strike again 11 minutes into the period. A delayed penalty allowed Edmonton netminder Mike Morrison to skate to the bench for an extra attacker. On the play, Steve Staios was manning the point and he eluded an attacking Sharks forward, skated in a few strides and let loose a shot that beat the screened Toskala.
Edmonton looked to make it 3-0 when the were awarded another power play, but his time, San Jose tightened up and did not allow the lead to expand and it stood 2-0 at the intermission.
San Jose came out of the lockerroom and put pressure on Morrison early. Attempts by Ekman and Cheechoo were turned away, however, and the Sharks were still held off the scoreboard.
Four minutes into the second stanza, Staios was sent to the box for delay of game. 45 seconds into their first power play of the night, Joe Thornton put the Sharks on the scoreboard. Cheechoo fired a shot on goal that was turned away by Morrison, but the rebound went back to the winger. Cheechoo proceeded to pass the puck back to Ekman, but instead it was deflected off an Edmonton defenders skate and straight to Thornton. Thornton had a wide open net and buried the shot. The score was now 2-1.
Alyn McCauley was whistled for tripping six minutes into the period and the Sharks were forced to fight off yet another power play. It looked as if Edmonton had put one past Toskala 52 seconds into advantage. Pronger fired a slap shot from the point in which Smyth tipped in. But the referee signaled no goal, as Smyth’s stick appeared to be too high.
Toskala made an unbelievable save in helping kill off the remainder of the penalty. While falling back, Toskala made a glove save on a Smyth wrister. But San Jose went back on the penalty kill when Cheechoo was sent to the box for interference. The Sharks were able to kill off his penalty and the team was back at even strength.
The Sharks went back on the power play when Fernando Pisani hooked Scott Thornton. They couldn’t convert, but once the two minutes was up, Pronger was immediately sent to the box for hooking and the Sharks went right back on the power play. The Sharks couldn’t manage a steady attack on the net at all during the two minutes and their power play expired.
Less than one minute later Jarret Stoll was penalized for hooking Doug Murray. San Jose could not capitalize and while they posted the period’s only goal, they were down 2-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
San Jose would face a stiff challenge early in the third when already down a man, Toskala was called for tripping, giving Edmonton 1:28 of five-on-three time. When Mark Smith came out of the box for his penalty, he lined up Pronger, bringing a roar from the crowd. Then just like he did earlier in the contest, Toskala stopped a sure goal while sprawled on the ice. The play killed off the second penalty and even strength play resumed.
The penalty killers inspired the offense and on the very next shift, San Jose evened the contest. Cheechoo carried the play across the blueline on a two-on-two rush. He dished the puck to the driving Michalek who lifted it above Morrison who was looking for the low shot. With 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the contest was even.
San Jose was controlling the zone for several minutes late in the third, but could not find the shot that would give them their first lead.
The game headed to overtime after a shot with 10 seconds left by Hannan was turned away by Morrison.
After five minutes of fast overtime play, the game went to a shootout.
Shooting first for Edmonton was Peca, and his shot sailed past Toskala's glove side. Ekman tied the score, however, when he backhanded one past Morrison. Smyth followed and he converted on his attempt. Joe Thornton couldn't cash in on his, so it went back to Hemsky. Toskala made an unbelievable save on his attempt, enabling Marleau to shoot for the tie. Marleau could not convert and the Oilers skated off with the 3-2 victory.
San Jose will travel to Los Angeles for a 3 p.m. Saturday contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Besides NBC, the contest can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.