San Jose ended a three-game losing streak against Colorado, outscoring the Avalanche 3-2 infront of the Sharks home crowd at HP Pavilion. Joe Thornton
celebrated his second anniversary as a Sharks player with a big game that included two power-play goals and an assist on the game winner.
Kyle McLaren returned to the lineup and Ron Wilson reunited the line of Milan Michalek, Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.
Less than a minute into the contest, Thornton let his presence be known. He first drew a penalty to begin a power play and then one minute into that he provided the go-ahead goal, his 10th of the season. On the play, Michalek carried the puck at the blueline and fed Thornton in the faceoff circle. Cheechoo was posted to Peter Budaj’s right, distracting the Colorado netminder enough for Thornton to blast home a slap shot.
Colorado had an opportunity to tie things when back-to-back penalties to Jeremy Roenick (highsticking) and Kyle McLaren (tripping) provided Colorado with a minute of five-on-three time, but Sharks penalty killers, especially Evgeni Nabokov, wouldn’t allow the Avalanche a sniff.
The Sharks were charged up offensively with two other excellent scoring chances in the first seven minutes. On the first, Thornton perfectly fed Michalek driving the net, but an uncalled hook prevented the easy tap in. With the ensuing rush, Team Teal was crashing the net and drew a power play, but a couple of close opportunities were turned away.
Colorado had a couple of odd-man rushes, but Nabokov handled the angles and San Jose finished the first up 1-0.
The visiting Avalanche made the mistake of an early second period infraction and again Thornton made them pay. This time Thornton set up below the faceoff circle and had Cheechoo mucking it up in front. Thornton simply wristed the puck past Budaj for the 2-0 lead.
In a game full of hits, Craig Rivet landed a beauty along the Sharks bench that sent Colorado’s Jaroslav Hlinka into the laps of the Sharks players.
With 3:35 left in the second, the Sharks were dominating 2-0, ahead in shots 20-11 and on the power play. But a bad bounce along the boards gave Colorado some light. On the resulting two-on-one rush, a nice feed from Paul Stastny to Milan Hejduk let the Avalanche get on the board.
When they killed off the power play, it seems the Avalanche would hit the lockerroom with some momentum. However, the Sharks offensive, notably Thornton, would add a third tally with less than two minutes left in the second.
This time Thornton would provide the goal with his setup ability. The All-Star centerman tossed the puck toward the slot and it bounced off the leg of a driving Mike Grier.
Unfortunately, Colorado would get their own late lucky bounce. A Christian Ehrhoff penalty put the Sharks down a man in the period’s closing minutes and Andrew Brunette’s simple pass through the crease bounced off McLaren’s skate and in, pulling Colorado within a 3-2 count at the second break.
The third period had several skirmishes midway through the stanza, but no real fights and no goals.
With 4:54 left in the third, Ehrhoff was sent to the box again and San Jose braced for a big Avalanche push. The opportunity would not last long as a strong forecheck by Thornton forced a turnover and a resulting trip by Brett Clark, eliminating shorthanded situation.
Still playing four-on-four, Nabokov made the stop of the game. Wojtek Wolski was alone with the puck skating in front of the crease. When he attempted to lift his backhand, Nabokov slid over and pushed the puck aside.
Colorado made a final push in the last sixty seconds, but the Sharks hung on to win 3-2 infront of their sellout crowd at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks will kick off the month of December with a three-game roadtrip, strarting in Colorado on Monday, December 3 at 6:00 p.m. The Sharks vs. Avs game will be broadcast on NHL Center Ice, 98.5 KFOX FM, Sharks Radio Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com