San Jose began their post All-Star half of the season on a winning note, easily handling Edmonton 5-1 in winning for the eighth time in the last 10 games. The Sharks are now within two points of the Pacific Divison lead.
Team Teal was without two of their bigger players as Mark Bell (groin) and Kyle McLaren (knee) stayed back in San Jose.
Vesa Toskala took his place across the ice from Dwayne Roloson in Rexall Place and stopped 20 of 21 Oiler shots for the victory, while Tomas Plihal dressed for his first career NHL game.
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There were no goals in the opening five minutes, but the Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau-Ryane Clowe line put some extended pressure on Roloson. San Jose earned the first power play of the game, but despite an up-close shot from Cheechoo, and total control of the offensive zone, the game remained scoreless 10 minutes in.
The Oilers would strike first, albeit with a bit of luck. A Fernando Pisani slot shot bounced off Toskala’s shoulder, into Doug Murray, and into the net, giving the home club the opening tally with six left in the first stanza.
Edmonton made the mistake of providing San Jose back-to-back power plays late in the first and, with 1:54 left in the period, Team Teal evened the contest. Set up by Clowe, Thornton slapped a 10 foot shot behind Roloson before the netminder could react.
The period closed with the contest tied at one.
It would not stay tied for long in the second. A poor clearing attempt by Edmonton captain Jason Smith was intercepted by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and the rookie threw it on net. Clowe found it first and the puck then found Marleau who pushed it in for the 2-1 lead.
With 8:18 to go in the second, San Jose would have 43 seconds of five-on-three time to increase their lead, but a questionable penalty to Marleau eliminated the two-man advantage. Then with the four-on-three still in effect, an errant pass forced Toskala to come up with a spectacular save.
Marleau would not need the power play to set up the Sharks next goal when even strength play returned. Making a defensive steal at the blueline, he skated into the offensive zone and slowed down on his defender. The delay allowed Mike Grier to skate in and accept the soft pass, and then the former Oiler went five-hole for the 3-1 lead.
That would not be the extent of San Jose’s second period. A nifty move at the blueline with 3:26 left in the period by Josh Gorges froze Roloson. When Gorges fired on net, Patrick Rissmiller reached behind himself as he skated across the crease and tipped the puck in. Team Teal had posted four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.
After 40 minutes, San Jose was outshooting Edmonton 27-13 and would enter the third knowing they led the league with 26 victories when leading after two periods.
Edmonton pressed hard to try and find a second tally which would bring them within two, but it was San Jose who had the better chances, including a Cheechoo shot that rang off the post. With 10 left in regulation, the three-goal lead was still in tact.
As the game wound down, Marleau added the ultimate insurance tally to make it a 5-1 final, giving San Jose eight wins in their last 10 games.
San Jose will fly to Vancouver following the game for a Sunday showdown with Vancouver. The 7 p.m. start will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.