Vesa Toskala took to the pipes opposite Reinhard Divis for the hometown Blues. The ice was titled toward St. Louis’ net the first few minutes, but strong shifts by three lines could not produce the early lead.
The pressure continued, and when Joe Thornton
’s line took to their third shift, they connected. Thornton carried the puck into the zone and when his shot was blocked, he found the puck again and then found Cheechoo. The Sharks leading goal-scorer quickly put the puck on net and found the five-hole.
The goal was the 43rd of the season, putting Cheechoo within one of Owen Nolan’s club record. Thornton’s assist put him at 100 for the year, pulling him within one of his career best 101-point season and one of the NHL lead.
Near the period’s midway point, Thornton set up shop behind Divis, but when the puck found Cheechoo, he had no angle for the shot and the puck was turned away. Marleau, who just missed on a breakaway that would have made it 2-0, kept attacking as well when he, Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier almost scored in a scramble down low.
When Matt Walker slashed and broke the stick of Thornton, San Jose was on the game’s first power play. Bernier almost banged home a rebound during the advantage, but Kevin Dallman reached back to stop the puck in mid-air.
A Scott Young penalty gave Team Teal their second power play of the first, but it was an opportunity by Petr Cajanek in alone on Toskala that was the best chance. On the play Toskala made the stop, but had to look back to ensure the puck had not snuck underneath him.
With 3:47 left in the first period, Mark Smith was called for obstruction on Dean McAmmond putting the Blues up a man. St. Louis was controlling the zone when Chad Wideman unleashed a bomb from the point. The shot rang off the post, but out of harms way. St. Louis kept the pressure on, but Toskala made a nice pad save on the best shot, and Smith returned to the ice.
The period expired with San Jose taking the 1-0 lead into the lockerroom.
San Jose began the second quickly by adding to their lead. The play started in the offensive zone when a St. Louis blueliner attempted to body check Bernier and couldn’t move the big forward. The puck found its way to Marleau who noticed that Bernier had moved to the front of the net. Marleau’s shot missed, but Bernier quickly grabbed the rebound and deposited it behind Divis for the 2-0 lead. The goal marked Bernier’s 14th point in the last 14 games.
On the other end, Bernier was sent to the box for interference and the Blues attempted to pull within one. At one point, Christian Backman skated into the high slot with a wide open attempt, but Toskala made the big play as he would do all night.
Coming out of the box, Bernier added to the Sharks lead. He got behind the defense, but had a man on him. Skating in from the right side, he held off the defender with one hand, held the stick and puck with the other hand and was then spun around. A penalty was about to be called, Bernier didn’t feel the need to wait for the power play as he pulled the puck between the legs. With one hand still tied up, he managed to put the puck on net. It struck the near post, bounced off Divis and across the line before a Blues player could make the save.
San Jose wasn’t looking to relax with the lead. Scott Hannan and Thornton both had shots on odd-man rushes, but couldn’t find the fourth goal.
With under five to go on the second, Lee Stepniak appeared set to knock in a rebound and provide St. Louis with a power play tally. He forgot to check with Toskala first, as the Sharks goaltender reached back and deflected the puck in mid-air.
Jamal Mayers took exception to a clean hit by Rob Davison and started a scrap. Davison took control of the fight early and Mayers would hit the ice. Mayers got up and the fight continued before the refs could step in. It marked the second fighting as many games between the two opponents.
In the final seconds of the middle stanza, Nils Ekman set up Cheechoo for a one-timer, but he couldn’t get all of it and the period would end with San Jose leading 3-0. At the whistle, Dallman tried to take a cheap shot on Patrick Rissmiller, but Scott Parker made his presence known and nothing materialized.
When Keith Tkachuk highsticked Bernier off the opening faceoff, San Jose skated five-on-four. San Jose beautifully set up Preissing early in the power play, but his one-timer rang off the pipe and they never really challenged Divis for the remainder of the power play.
Both sides had odd-man rushes at the games midway point as Josh Gorges and Tkachuk just missed adding to the lead or closing the gap.
With 10 minutes left in regulation, the Blues were not giving up and put two strong shots on Toskala, earning a power play. It would be San Jose that took advantage of the situation. Skating down the left wing, Alyn McCauley perfectly wristed a laser to the far post and when it clanged in, San Jose led 4-0. It was McCauley’s second goal in as many games and the first shorthanded goal allowed in St. Louis by the Blues this year.
That was not the end for the host Blues. Hard word by Mark Smith kept St. Louis from clearing the zone. He fed it to the point and when the shot rebounded to the slot, Smith grabbed it and roofed it for the 5-0 lead. It marked two goals in just under two minutes for Team Teal.
The only question on the night would be whether Toskala could preserve the shutout and with five minutes remaining, it was made a bit more difficult due to a too-many-men on the ice penalty. That would not matter to the red-hot Finnish netminder as he held St. Louis at bay and did not allow a goal on the evening.
San Jose added a sixth tally with 2:25 remaining when Cheechoo faked a shot and froze everybody. His pass found Ekman wide open and the Swede made one move and then tucked the puck in behind Divis. That finished the scoring at 6-0.
The win gave San Jose 13 of the 14 available points in their last seven games and put Team Teal within one point of both the seventh and eighth playoff spot, with games to be played later in the evening.
Christian Ehrhoff finished the night as a +5, missing the frainchise mark by one.
San Jose will travel to Detroit next for a 4:30 p.m. faceoff with the Red Wings on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.