Behind a two goal performance by center Mark Smith, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Florida Panthers, 6-2, Thursday night in front of a packed house at HP Pavilion. San Jose lcame into the contest looking to run their win streak to four with the struggling Panthers in town. Evgeni Nabokov returned to action and faced Jamie McLennan who was looking for his first victory this season.
An early penalty to Panthers captain Olli Jokinen for goaltender interference put the Sharks on an early advantage, but McLennan and company killed off the advantage.
The game’s first true scoring opportunity came via the speed of Patrick Marleau
. The Sharks captain was held up on a breakaway by a Florida defender, but he patiently held the puck until a streaking Rob Davison outskated his defender. Marleau nailed the pass, but McLennan was able to turn back Davison’s shot.
Florida responded with a strong opportunity off the stick of Jokinen, but Nabokov was also up for the challenge.
San Jose would strike for the first goal and Marleau was a key factor. Niko Dimitrakos’ wrister rebounded to Marleau, who appeared to have the opening tally. His shot hit the post and came back behind McLennan who was still trying to find the puck. As it came into the slot, Alyn McCauley played the role of opportunist and knocked in the rebound on the downed netminder.
Florida’s Steven Weiss would tied the contest at the six minute mark. What seemed like a simple wrist shot was blocked out front and both teams scrambled for the rebound. Weiss found it first and perfectly placed the shot to the top left corner of Nabokov.
A tripping penalty to Tom Preissing gave Florida their first power play one minute after their goal. Nabokov turned away one flurry early in the two minutes and the Panthers never really threatened after that.
The Sharks missed a scoring opportunity when Kyle McLaren set up Joe Thornton
with a beautiful pass, but the center’s shot was turned away by McLennan.
The teams skated to the locker room knotted at one despite the Panthers out-shooting the Sharks 13-5.
Back-to-back Panther penalties provided San Jose with 1:11 of time on the two-man advantage early in the second. Florida killed off the first penalty as two Sharks shots just missed the net and it looked as if Florida would survive the power plays when the second penalty expired.
However, just as things returned to five-on-five, Josh Langfeld fielded a loose puck from behind McLennan. Langfeld quickly found Mark Smith driving to the net and the Eyebrow, Saskatoon native pushed the puck past McLennan for his fourth of the year. San Jose once again led by one.
The lead would grow to two nine minutes into the period. Skating in hard on the forecheck, Langfeld and Smith teamed up again. This time, Langfeld found Smith in the corner uncovered. Smith skated behind the net and out to the far faceoff circle where still no one had guarded him. The grinding center simply turned and roofed the puck top shelf on McLennan for his second tally of the period. It marked Smith’s first career two-goal game.
When Florida’s newly acquired Steve Montador hooked down McCauley at center ice, the lethal San Jose power play would take to the ice and they wasted little time in making it 4-1. This time, Joe Thornton
made a nifty move to skirt his defender and lifted a shot on McLennan. When the rebound came out front, Marleau pounced on it and banged it home before Florida’s netminder even had a chance.
For the fifth successive contest, San Jose would score their fifth goal in a game, a franchise record. Once again, Marleau would be the setup man. While carrying the puck, he drove the net, drawing a penalty in his wake. McLennan made the stop, but was sprawled on the ice in front of the crease. Grant Stevenson picked up the loose puck and slid it across the goal line at a very difficult angle. It marked Stevenson’s eighth point in eight games.
Florida would attempt to rally with a late second period tally to make it 5-2 on a nice redirect by Jozef Stumpel on a Jay Bouwmeester point shot.
San Jose would take the three goal lead into the lockerroom.
Team Teal was playing smart and was worried more about protecting their lead than adding to it.
With 12 minutes left in the contest, Nabokov made the save of the game. After he deflected an initial shot, a Panthers forward looked like he had easy pickings for the rebound goal. Nabokov thought otherwise as he reached across and sent the puck wide, keeping the lead at three.
With ten minutes left in regulation, Scott Thornton was sent to the box for a double minor and Florida would try to close the gap. It was the San Jose offense that had the best chance early in the penalties when McCauley was sprung on a breakaway. McLennan received a break as the shot went just wide.
It wasn’t until there was a scant 30 seconds left in the four minutes that Florida mustered any attack, but it was a strong attack. Jokinen found himself open in the slot and had Nabokov alone, but the Sharks number one goalie challenged the shot and easily made the stop.
San Jose would add another goal with just over three minutes left when Joe Thornton fed his cousin as they were both crashing the net hard, and the veteran slipped one past McLennan. The Sharks led 6-2.
The closing minutes wrapped up, seeing Florida desperatly trying to sneak a few more goals in, but Nabokov wouldn't budge, as the Sharks skated off with the 6-2 victory.
The first four picks from the 1997 NHL Entry draft were in the building, although only three of them saw the ice. Selections one and two, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau skated for San Jose while Jokinen and Roberto Luongo, picks three and four, wore the Panthers jersey. Luongo watched the game from sidelines as McLennan got the call in net.
BACK IN BLACK
San Jose wore their black uniforms for the first time this season before the home crowd.
S. Thornton – J. Thornton – Cheechoo
Jim Fahey and Ryane Clowe were the healthy scratches.