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Special Teams Carry The Day As Sharks Even Series

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
San Jose gave Nashville a taste of their own medicine in Game 2 of the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil, posting three first period power play goals en route to a 3-0 victory. While the special teams were San Jose’s downfall Friday night, they were exceptional Sunday afternoon.

The first power play was huge and got us rolling,” said Mark Smith. “That’s what we’ve got to do. They (the referees) are making the calls in the playoffs.”

Jonathan Cheechoo, who was held off the scoreboard in Game 1, responded with a point on each Sharks goal, including posting the game-winning, opening tally.

Part of the power play’s success can be directly attributed to Patrick Marleau manning the point as he did during much of the regular season.

“I’m just back there to move the puck around and try to get shots to the net,” said Marleau. “On the five-on-threes I just tried to get the puck in and get set up.”

Marleau directly set up the game-winner with a laser pass from the point that Cheechoo tapped in. He then scored the insurance goal. Both tallies were with a five-on-three advantage.

“It just popped right out to me and the net was open,” said Marleau of his own goal.

Marleau’s ice time jumped considerably from Tuesday night.

“I wanted to get Patrick more involved,” said Wilson. “It is a little roll of the dice because you don’t want to get burned shorthanded. Patty is good at reading the situation. On the first five-on-three, he made a great play. All the attention was on Joe and Patty took advantage.”

Marleau only skated 16 minutes in the first contest, but Wilson made sure that did not happen again.

“The other night was a little bit my fault,” said Wilson. “Patty only played 16 minutes and he needs to be around 21 to be effective.”

The two-man advantages proved to be turning points on the afternoon, but things can go the other way if a club doesn’t score.

“It is a huge momentum swing if you score,” said Wilson. “But if it is a lengthy one, and they kill it, it can change the momentum the other way.”

While Nashville can play the speed game along with San Jose, Team Teal has a size advantage and the Sharks worked hard along the boards on their power play chances.

“Right off bat, we got the puck deep,” said Hannan. “Our forwards are tough to handle.”

The power play scored a Game 1 goal for San Jose, but it was the improved penalty killing that kept Nashville off the board. Nine separate times the Predators had an advantage and each time the penalty killers answered the bell.

“We made a couple of adjustments,” said Smitty. “We went to the video after the last game. Ville and the guys did a great job of getting to the point and shutting them down. The last game we gave them ice at the blueline. Today we forced them outside or to chip it in. We did a great job tonight of being aggressive.”

The Sharks bench boss was pleased with the penalty killing results.

“We were more aggressive,” said Wilson. “We had a sense of urgency on the PK. I’m sure we’ll have to adjust more for the next game.”

The Sharks know that nine power plays is a dangerous number to provide the Predators.

“We still have to do a better job of staying out of the box,” said Marleau.

“They sent out their banging line in the third and we lost our cool a little bit,” said Wilson. “It worked to their advantage and could have affected the momentum.”

Nashville was awarded a five-on-three late in the third, but the defensive corps responded.

“Vesa was great on the five-on-three and Kyle (McLaren) and Hannan were too,” said Wilson.

Vesa Toskala recorded his first career postseason shutout in just his second career postseason game.

What might have been a bigger accomplishment is that he shutout a team that had the NHL’s best regular season home record and hadn’t been shutout all season.

“The win is all that matters,” said Toskala. “The shutout is nice for me, but it is not the main goal.”

Toskala credited his teammates with making the shutout easier.

“I was able to see the puck better today,” said Toskala. “The couple I couldn’t see, never got to me.”

His teammates on the other hand were happy to help Toskala get the goose egg.

“Absolutely,” said Preissing. “To get a shutout in your second playoff game, not too many guys have done that.”

Getting the early advantage helps from the netminding standpoint.

“It was nice to get a couple early,” said Toskala. “It makes it easier to play and you don’t squeeze the stick so hard.”

Following the whistle that created San Jose’s second five-on-three chance, Wilson wisely used his timeout.

“I could see Joe and Cheech were winded,” said Wilson. “You want to save your timeout for later in the game, but it ended up being a turning point.”

The Sharks accomplished their primary mission in Music City, returning home with the series tied at one.

“We came in to get home ice advantage,” said Hannan. “Now we get to go home and look forward to Tuesday.”

“It is going to be great in San Jose,” said Toskala. “It is so loud there and we just need to suck the right energy from our crowd. Now it is a best of five and we have home ice.”

San Jose was fortunate to score early and often in Nashville.

“It was good to get the crowd out of the game,” said Marleau. “Three goals were all we needed tonight.”

For a second consecutive game, the Sharks did not allow Nashville an even strength goal.

“I thought we played well five-on-five,” said Hannan. “We moved our feet a lot.”

“Five-on-five, they haven’t scored on us yet,” said Wilson.

Mark Smith, who now leads the Sharks in playoff goal scoring after posting his second tally in as many games, saw an increased role in Game 2.

His late first period goal proved to be a dagger in the heart of Nashville.

“Cheech passed it to me and the cage was wide open,” said Smith. “I just put it in. The pass was right in my wheel house. It was the third goal, and like us in the first game, it put the nail in the coffin.”

The fact that Smith was on the power play was by design. With Marleau manning the point, Smith now finds himself centering Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier on the second power play unit.

“Smitty loves the playoffs and he has all kinds of energy,” said Wilson. “He knows how to score, but just hasn’t been in many positions to take advantage of it.”

Cheechoo’s three-point first period tied the Sharks playoff mark and he just missed the franchise playoff record of four for points in a game. His nine shots fell just short of Owen Nolan’s mark of 10.

San Jose blocked 16 shots on the day, with Nils Ekman’s four leading the way as Team Teal denied Nashville numerous scoring chances

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville to watch Game 2 of the series and will be traveling out west next week.

“I’ll be in Anaheim on Tuesday, Denver on Wednesday and San Jose on Thursday,” said Bettman.

The NHL leader reinforced the fact that the rules will be interpreted the same as they were during the regular season.

“There will be no difference from the standard of the regular season,” said Bettman. “The (style of play) is a testament to our officials and the players. The game is better for it.”

Wilson has reminded his team of the fact.

“The refs want to keep working and Bettman was here tonight,” said Wilson. “I told the fellows they were calling everything.”

Bettman pointed out that an NHL Network could be unveiled in the United States for next season.

“Our timetable is to start next season,” said Bettman. “It will have a regular stable of NHL games and programming aimed at college hockey.”
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