In their first contest since eliminating the Nashville Predators from the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks returned to the ice Sunday night to take on the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The Sharks earned a 1-0 lead in the series when they defeated the Oilers by the final score of 2-1.
The Sharks sent Vesa Toskala to the net to face-off against Dwayne Roloson in the crucial Game 1 matchup. Both netminders played exceptionally well in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, something that is expected to continue throughout this series.
Action started early when rookie Matt Carle was whistled for hooking Radek Dvorak. Edmonton would make the Sharks pay when Jaroslav Spacek fired a slapshot from the right faceoff circle that slipped past Toskala. The Oilers took the early 1-0 lead.
It wasn’t long before the Marleau-Bernier-Michalek line created havoc for Roloson. After Ville Nieminen, Scott Thornton and Marcel Goc pounded away at the Oilers’ forwards, not letting them get the puck out of the neutral zone, Marleau’s line stepped on the ice and was able to find the back of the net. Marleau notched his eighth goal of the playoffs after he took a perfect pass from Bernier from behind the net. The Captain fired it past Roloson, tying the game at one midway through the frame.
With seven minutes left in the opening frame, the Sharks nearly took their first lead of the night when a loose puck was out in front of the net for seconds. The Sharks forwards tried forcing it in, but instead Roloson held a Shark, drawing a two-minute penalty. But just 23 seconds into the advantage, Christian Ehrhoff evened up the sides when he was penalized for tripping. Both penalties expired, however, with the score remaining tied at one.
With 45 seconds left in the first Jason Smith was called for holding. Time expired as the teams headed back to the locker room tied at one.
When play resumed the Sharks had 1:15 left on the power play, but Team Teal couldn’t convert.
They would not need the benefit of a man-advantage to take their first lead of the series. Some hard checking by Ville Nieminen set the tone for the Marleau line. The Captain began the play by forcing a hit behind the net and stripping the Oilers blueliner. He found Michalek for two in close shots. When the puck slid toward the corner, Marleau was there again and he quickly found Christian Ehrhoff at the point. His one-timer found the corner for his first career playoff goal and a 2-1 lead.
While San Jose was pressuring hard offensively, Edmonton was having a hard time mustering any offense. In fact, they would not record their first shot of the period until the 8:08 mark of the second. Joe Thornton
and crew kept the pressure on late in the second and drew a power play when Edmonton could not clear the zone. This time it would be the Edmonton penalty killers who would have the advantage as they kept the deficit at one following 40 minutes.
Early in the third, Edmonton killed off another Sharks power play, but the crowd roared their approval when Nieminen struck on the forecheck. Nieminen, who has 12 hits through two periods lined up Pronger and nailed him at a whistle.
The first nine minutes of the final period saw just four shots between the two clubs. Scott Thornton gave the crowd a rush when rang a shot of the mask of Roloson and then followed up in the scrum in front of the net.
A critical moment for Team Teal came when Joe Thornton
was given a tough call for tripping Roloson with 9:12 remaining in regulation.
When the penalty expired, the Sharks found themselves on a three-on-two with Joe Thornton
, Michalek and Marleau. They pulled off two quality shots, with Marleau’s redirect missing just wide.
With four minutes remaining in the third, the clock was working in the Sharks favor as Edmonton needed a goal and the Sharks were controlling in the offensive zone.
Nieminen just missed an open net with less than a minute remaining and Edmonton would used their timeout to set up a play with 35 ticks left on the clock. But it wouldn’t be enough, as San Jose held on to their 2-1 victory and took the 1-0 series lead.