The Sharks lockerroom obviously wasn’t the happiest place following their 4-3 loss in Nashville to start the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil. However, despite the opening game defeat, the Sharks know they did not bring their “A” game and yet, they still had a tie game with 9:29 left in the third period.
“Our guys showed we won’t ever give up,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
. “The one thing about this year, throughout the entire season, we were able to come back. We know we can do it. We have a lot of character guys in this room and we fought back.”
However, San Jose knows that no team can give up four power play goals in a game and expect to win. Team Teal actually took the early 1-0 lead before succumbing to three Predators power plays to close out the first period. San Jose did everything to pull the game even before allowing the fourth and final power play tally in the third.
Vesa Toskala performed admirably in his first playoff start, but wasn’t able to even see the puck on three of the four tallies due to traffic and tips.
“They were good on the power play, but I think the puck bounced a little better for them,” said Toskala. “There is not much you can do differently. Some days go like that. Some days, the puck goes off the side of the net.”
“You’re not going to win if you give up four power plays,” said Joe Thornton
. “We have to do a better job of blocking shots.”
The bounces were there because of some ill-timed shorthanded situations.
“We took a couple of dumb penalties in the offensive zone that put us behind the eight ball,” said Joe Thornton
“We can’t take too many penalties in the offensive zone,” said Toskala. “Obviously we need to stay out of the box.”
When the play stayed five-on-five, the Sharks showed how dangerous they can be, outscoring the Predators 2-0.
“We played really well five-on-five,” said Joe Thornton
. “We grabbed a couple of goals.”
“Our style is to get the puck in deep and bang in a goal,” said Mark Smith.
It’s not like the Predators surprised the Sharks with their power play attack, yet the Sharks know they need to address the problem.
“Our penalty kill has to do better,” said Marleau. “The move it around really quick. We have to get in the shooting lanes.”
San Jose knows they will have to copy a thing or two from the Nashville game plan offensively.
“We’ve got to shoot the puck, and if there is traffic in front, maybe Mason won’t see it,” said Marleau.
For all the power plays, there was one call that slipped by when Joe Thornton
was highsticked out of site of a referee. The blood across the bridge of his nose told the story.
“It happens,” said Joe Thornton
diplomatically. “They can’t see everything.”
“Joe was cut across the nose, but you’ve just got to play on,” said Wilson.
Mark Smith and Marcel Goc recreated some of their magic from 2004 when they scored the series clinching goals. Friday night they connected for the opening tally when Goc delivered a slot pass to a wide-open Smith.
“He hit me right in the lane and I went right to the net,” said Smith.
“It was a good shot by Smitty,” said Goc. “He got open in the high slot. It may have hit the goaltender’s arm, but it was a good shot.”
Scott Thornton scored what appeared to be the goal of the night for Sharks fans when he tied the game at three in the third. On the sequence, Alyn McCauley drew the puck to Ville Nieminen who wheeled around a referee and delivered a perfect pass to Scott Thornton.
“Alyn did a nice job winning the faceoff,” said Scott Thornton. “Ville’s pass hit my stick and I just redirected it. Unfortunately, they took the lead back right after.”
The special teams battles limited the line’s ice time on the night.
“When we play five-on-five, it gets everybody on our team involved,” said Marleau.
Scott Thornton is the eldest Sharks skater by several years, but his leadership and production are still very important to Team Teal.
“My kids are the age of some of our players’ siblings,” said Scott Thornton. “This is the first year I’ve really noticed it, but it keeps me young.”
FIRST TO 4
While a game one victory would have been preferred, the Sharks no a single game does not make a series.
“You have to win four games to win a series,” said Steve Bernier. “We could have six more to play.”
A few Sharks were playing in their first postseason contest, but they answered the bell for the most part.
“I felt nervous in the beginning, but the more the game went on, the more confident I got,” said Bernier. “That will be good for the rest of the series.”
“It was good experience,” said Matt Carle. “The playoffs are intense and now I know what it will be like down the road.”
MASON PLAYS WELL
Much was made of Chris Mason starting in net for Nashville and he played well for the victorious home club. Counting the conclusion of the regular season, he has now won seven consecutive starts.
“You have to credit Mason with a lot of great saves,” said Wilson. “We had a lot of chances.”
Paul Kariya, who Sharks fans remember well from his days with Anaheim, recorded an assist on all four Predator goals, including three primary assists.
As usual, Scott Hannan paced the Sharks in ice time, playing 24.12 on the night and recording a +1.
Jonathan Cheechoo and Nils Ekman each registered five shots on net, but only one crossed the goal line. The Sharks bench boss would like to see more offensive looks from other players.
“If we have just Cheech and Ek, they’re going to be covered,” said Wilson. “We’ve got to be more aggressive when we possess the puck.”
Wilson is looking for more help from the backline in particular.
“Matt Carle had no fear all day standing his ground on the blueline,” said Wilson. “We need more guys doing that.”
San Jose knows that Nashville played a strong game, but that their own mistakes hurt as much as anything.
“We’re going to be better on Sunday,” said Joe Thornton
Sunday’s game begins at 10 a.m. Pacific Time and will be broadcast on NBC 11, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.