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Thornton comes up big for the Sharks

April 26, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

FROM SAN JOSE — San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton found a heart, the Ducks lost their poise and the teams' playoff series became a lot more interesting -- and at least one game longer.

Thornton, conspicuous in the first four games only for his indifferent play, on Saturday showed a fiery side he long lacked during postseason play. With the top-seeded Sharks one loss from elimination, he set up Patrick Marleau's goal at 6 minutes 2 seconds of overtime to give the Sharks a 3-2 victory that cut the Ducks' series lead to three games to two.

On the decisive goal, Thornton, who had scored the Sharks' first goal and assisted on their second, had the puck behind the net and threw it in front. It was poked by Marleau by the left post and trickled over the line, extending the Sharks' season.

"The reason the puck went in the net is their player pushed our goalie's pad," Coach Randy Carlyle said. "As he pushed the goalie's pad, the back of his skate knocked the puck in the net."

Said Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller: "I was looking for the puck and I didn't see who was pushing and who did what. We had our chances in overtime. They kind of got a lucky bounce."

The Ducks, 13-3 in overtime since the 2003 playoffs, can still close out the series and advance to a second-round matchup against Detroit if they win Monday at the Honda Center. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Wednesday at San Jose.

The Sharks are trying to avoid becoming the fourth Presidents' Trophy winner to be eliminated in a first round, following the dubious lead of the 1990-91 Chicago Blackhawks, who lost to the Minnesota North Stars; the 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues, who lost to San Jose, and the 2005-06 Red Wings, who were upset by the Edmonton Oilers. Ryan Carter, playing his second straight game in place of the ailing Petteri Nokelainen, took a clever pass off the left-wing boards from Andrew Ebbett and rifled a shot from the left circle that eluded Evgeni Nabokov at the 55-second mark.

The Ducks pulled even at 4:42 thanks to another brilliant play by Scott Niedermayer. He drew two defenders to him before making a perfectly timed lead pass to his right to Corey Perry, who beat Nabokov from about 25 feet.

The crowd was deflated at the sudden turn in momentum and feared the worst when the Ducks sustained some pressure even though winger Bobby Ryan sat out three shifts for unspecified reasons. Thornton hit the post during one frantic sequence and Ducks winger Mike Brown had the puck roll off his stick on a breakaway, creating a thrilling chance-for-chance pace.

Through regulation time the Sharks had outshot the Ducks, 41-22, the only area in which they consistently had an edge during the series.

Thornton had shed his cloak of invisibility and made more of an impact in the first period than he had in the previous four games combined. He lured two Ducks into taking penalties and scored during the second advantage to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.

Finally playing like the team that won 53 games this season, the Sharks played a spirited first period. Thornton and Marleau, reunited with Devin Setoguchi to recreate the combination they had formed at the start of the series, displayed a fire that restored them to the good graces of fans who had lamented their lack of production.

Thornton drew the first penalty 46 seconds into the game, when Perry foolishly cross-checked him.

The Ducks got through that unscathed, largely because Hiller made a left pad save on Joe Pavelski to negate the Sharks' best threat.

San Jose scored on its second advantage after Ryan Getzlaf was sent off at 6:51 for hooking Thornton. Rob Blake controlled the puck along the right-wing boards and passed down low to Marleau, whose shot was stopped by Hiller's stick. Thornton was in position to slip the rebound between Hiller's left leg and the post at 7:25 for his first goal of the series.

That was the Sharks' third power-play goal in 19 tries but only the second game in the series in which they scored on the power play. They scored their two previous power-play goals in Game 3, which they won, 4-3, at Anaheim.

The Sharks dominated the second period, too, despite taking a penalty that gave the Ducks their first power play of the game. The Sharks had several excellent chances to pad their lead and twice came within a few inches of scoring. Blake hit the right post and Ryane Clowe hit the left post during a power play.

The Sharks scored again, this time at even strength, before the period ended. Setoguchi had the puck behind the net and faked cutting one way before coming around to Hiller's left. Setoguchi threw the puck at the net and managed to slip it between Hiller's left side and the post.

Carlyle said he tried to rally the Ducks after the period.

"I told them we haven't played well enough. I told them you've got to believe. Get one, we'll get two and we'll be in this thing, and we did," Carlyle said.


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