The Sharks entered the game with a 4-1-0 record against the Kings this season and they sent Vesa Toskala to the net looking to improve that record. Opposing him at the other end of the ice was Mathieu Garon.
The Sharks went on the offensive early, and it was a defenseman leading the charge. Three minutes into the contest, Christian Ehrhoff made a nifty move around a Kings defenseman and made a lead pass to Steve Bernier, but Bernier’s backhand was turned away by Garon.
Milan Michalek continued the offensive charge minutes later when he streaked down the ice on a breakaway. But like Bernier’s, Michalek’s backhanded attempt was denied on an outstanding effort by Garon to get his leg pad out at the last second.
Eight minutes into the first, Bernier was whistled for interference, sending Los Angeles on their first power play of the evening. During the power play, Craig Conroy deflected a slapshot off the stick of Scott Hannan. The deflection ended up hitting Conroy straight in the forehead, sending the center to the ice and then straight to the locker room.
Los Angeles couldn’t capitalize on their advantage, but less than a minute after Bernier’s penalty, Josh Gorges was penalized for holding. Still the Kings couldn’t do much with the two minutes and the game remained scoreless.
With 4:11 left on the clock, Scott Thornton took offense to a Tim Gleason hit and went after the defenseman, earning the veteran Shark two minutes for roughing and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Sharks killed off the entire four minutes, and the remaining seconds of the first expired without a score.
When the teams came out for the second, it was Los Angeles that would light the lamp first. Eric Belanger shot a puck from behind the goal line that he shot off Toskala’s legpad, ricocheting into the net. The Kings led 1-0.
Less than a minute later, the Sharks went down a man yet again when Bernier was called for high-sticking Mattias Norstrom, but San Jose did a good job of keeping the puck out of the zone, fighting off their fifth penalty of the night.
It was San Jose ’s turn for a power play five minutes into the second when Gleason hooked Bernier. The Sharks were able to keep the puck in LA’s own end, but without putting any good shots on goal and the power play expired.
The Kings went back on the power play when Ville Nieminen was penalized for hooking. It wasn’t Los Angeles who would enjoy the man advantage however, it was San Jose . Jonathan Cheechoo made a remarkable play behind the net, reaching around goal and forcing it past Garon. Joe Thornton
assisted on the play, giving him 93 points on the season, tying him with Jaromir Jagr for the league lead. The score was now all tied up at one.
San Jose kept the buzz in the Shark Tank when they nearly earned their first lead of the night. Joe Thornton
and Nils Ekman caused havoc in tight on Garon with an onslaught of shots, but the netminder stayed strong and turned away each attempt.
The Sharks went back on the power play with seven minutes left in the second stanza after Aaron Miller headed to the sin bin for hooking Ekman. 45 seconds into the advantage, Norstrom was called for delaying the game when he shot the puck into the stands. San Jose saw both penalties go awry without another tally for the boys in teal.
The second period concluded with the game remaining tied at one.
After the first few minutes of the third period featured play mostly in the neutral zone, San Jose capitalized when a Thornton wrap around attempt bounced off Garon and directly to Cheechoo, who calmly put the puck in the net at 3:18 to give the Sharks their first lead of the game, 2-1. With the assist, Thornton earned his second point of the night and 94th of the season, giving him the NHL scoring lead.
Just 35 seconds later, Marleau skated in on goal and wristed a shot past Garon to give the Sharks a two-goal lead. The goal, assisted by Michalek, was Marleau’s 29th of the season, establishing a new career-high.
Los Angeles would quickly answer as Joe Corvo fired a shot past Toskala to cut the Kings deficit to one at 7:26 of the final stanza.
It didn’t take long for San Jose to respond as Cheechoo wristed a shot from the slot at 7:42 in the period to complete the hat trick and restore San Jose ’s two-goal lead, 4-2. For Cheechoo, it was his 40th goal of the season and the fourth hat trick of the year, a new Sharks team record. Thornton and Scott Hannan received the assists on the goal. With the goal, Cheechoo became only the second player in Sharks history to score 40 goals in a season.
The scoring would continue, however. Kings center Michael Cammallerri scored his 23rd goal of the season to bring Los Angeles to within one goal less than 30 seconds later, beating Toskala to close the gap to 4-3.
After Cheechoo nearly scored his fourth goal of the game, the Kings came back down the ice and drew a holding the stick penalty on Ehrhoff with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the contest. The Sharks stingy penalty kill unit, which went a perfect 7-for-7, did not allow Los Angeles to generate any quality scoring chances on their man advantage.
The Kings pulled Garon with less than a minute to play to try and score the equalizer, but San Jose’s defense proved to be too much and the Sharks skated away with the victory to pull them within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Evgeni Nabokov practiced for the first time on Sunday since being jolted from a Sandis Ozolinsh shot March 7 at Anaheim . Nabokov dressed tonight, backing up Toskala in net and sending Schaefer to the press box.
Schaefer is expected to be assigned to Cleveland tomorrow.
The Sharks will play host to the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area or heard on the Sharks Radio Network or sjsharks.com.