The San Jose Sharks grabbed two more points in the race for the playoffs as they handled the St. Louis Blues 5-2 Thursday night at HP Pavilion, running their home winning streak to seven. Tom Preissing and Steve Bernier posted two goals apiece and Jonathan Cheechoo chipped in with another as he inches to within four goals of the NHL goal scoring lead.
San Jose sent the red-hot Vesa Toskala out to defend the nets while Patrick Rissmiller was inserted into the lineup in place of the banged up Scott Thornton. Nils Ekman was also out of the lineup for Team Teal as he was with his newborn son who joined the world earlier in the day.
A slick pick of the pocket by St. Louis’ Scott Young allowed the Blues to take a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest. After taking control of the puck, Young ripped a shot toward Toskala, but it deflected through a defender’s leg and ended up going top shelf for the goal. Joe Thornton
and Cheechoo nearly connected four minutes into the game when the big center set up behind the net and put the puck on his wingers stick. The shot was bobbled, but Lalime held on. The duo set up three other opportunities on the same shift, but could not even the count.
When St. Louis took to the game’s first power play, San Jose was the more offensive club as Ville Nieminen set up Patrick Marleau
for a chance that Lalime stopped.
Rob Davison looked to put some jump into the Sharks night when right off a faceoff, he battled Jamal Mayers. Davison landed nearly every punch during the brief bout before tossing Mayers to the ice.
San Jose would take the lead on a point shot by Preissing. After Kyle McLaren did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone, he found Preissing who fired it on net. Cheechoo was parked out front and appeared to tip it in for the tying tally. Whether he touched it or not did not matter as the score was tied at one.
When the second period began, St. Louis would take advantage of a Doug Murray interference call to re-take the lead. The Blues made some precision tic-tac-toe passes that ended with Trent Whitfield alone with the puck at the side of the net. He took his time and roofed it for his first goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
When the game reached its halfway point, the Sharks would first tie and then take the lead. The tying tally occurred when Joe Thornton
created a chance down low. His pass was not successful, but San Jose did keep the puck in the zone. The play found its way back to Preissing at the point and again he let loose a blast. This time Grant Stevenson was in front creating traffic as Preissing found the back of the net for his first career two-goal game.
Within a minute, San Jose would have their first lead. The Marleau line entered the zone on a three-on-two rush. Milan Michalek on the left side fed it to Marleau who then quickly flipped it to Bernier who was alone on Lalime. The rookie winger found the five-hole and San Jose was up 3-2.
After San Jose killed off the Blues third power play of the game late in the third, Cheechoo struck again. Off a planned faceoff play, Thornton drew the puck back to the Moose Factory, Ontario native who one-timed it passed Lalime for the 4-2 lead at the intermission.
Following more than a minute of four-on-four time to begin the third, the Sharks struck again to make it 5-2. This time a big shot from the point again played a big role. Christian Ehrhoff unloaded form the blueline and Lalime couldn’t hold on to the blast. Bernier was there for the easy picking and he had his second two-goal game in as many contests.
San Jose attempted to increase their lead with two late power play opportunities, but they did not need anymore insurance as they closed out a 5-2 victory that brought them within three points of a playoff spot.
The Sharks will host the Dallas Stars Saturday at HP Pavilion. The game will be aired at 1 p.m. on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. A limited amount of tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or at www.ticketmaster.com.