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Sharks clinch playoff spot with huge win
SJ bowls over road weary Red Wings
3/23/04 - by Mike Lee

The resurrection of 2004 was completed on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion as the Sharks clinched a playoff spot with a resounding 5-2 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. The nightmare of 2002-03 was put to rest by a 37 save performance by Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and another two goal game for Jonathan Cheechoo. Nabokov weathered a 17 shot 1st period and a 15 shot 2nd period en route to his 27th win of the season. Cheechoo has scored two goals in four of the Sharks last six games. The win also moved San Jose into a points tie with Colorado in the race for the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. The Sharks 94 points, also pulls them to within five points of Detroit and Tampa Bay for the best record in the NHL.

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1 2 3 T
DET 1 1 0 2
SJ 2 1 2 5
1st period - S.J, S. HANNAN (5) (V. DAMPHOUSSE, P. MARLEAU), 07:42 S.J, J. CHEECHOO (25) (M. RICCI, J. MARSHALL), 09:40 DET, P. DATSYUK (26) (B. HULL), 18:27
2nd period - S.J, J. CHEECHOO (25) , 07:12 DET, J. FISCHER (2) (T. HOLMSTROM, M. MOWERS), 12:05
3rd period - S.J, A. KOROLYUK (17) (A. MCCAULEY), 06:10 S.J, V. DAMPHOUSSE (8) (P. MARLEAU, C. BROWN), 15:51
1st period - DET, B. SHANAHAN, 11:06 - Slashing
2nd period - S.J, M. RATHJE, 02:36 - Tripping S.J, B. STUART, 16:47 - Holding
3rd period - DET, S. THOMAS, 19:19 - Slashing
  Shots Saves
DET - Legace 20 15
SJ - Nabokov 39 37
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
DET 17 15 7 39
SJ 9 4 7 20
Power Play Conversion
DET 0 of 2
SJ 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Evgeni Nabokov
Jonathan Cheechoo
Scott Thornton
The Red Wings have tripped on their last two attempts at cracking the 100 point mark and have given up 13 goals in that span. Their 8-6 loss to Anaheim on Sunday was certainly a wake up call, and it showed in the 1st period. The Sharks were on their heels for much of the period, but managed to keep the high powered Red Wing offense at bay.

Detroit was out-shooting San Jose 7-2 when Scott Hannan struck for the game's first goal at 7:42. The Sharks defenseman pinched from the point at the perfect time, punching home a deflection off Manny Legace from the slot. Vincent Damphousse tried stuffing the puck past Legace from just outside the left post, but the Red Wings netminder was well positioned for the shot. Unfortunately for Detroit, Legace was not in good position for the rebound.

Cheechoo would push the Sharks lead to 2-0 two minutes later when he put another rebound past Legace. Mike Ricci bounced a shot off Legace, but Cheechoo whipped around the back of the net and scooped up the rebound before lifting a shot from five feet out over Legace.

The Red Wings cut the Sharks lead to 2-1 with 1:33 to play in the period, when Pavel Datsyuk took a pass from Brett Hull, split two Shark defenders then poked his own rebound past Nabokov.

Cheechoo would help pad the Sharks lead once again when he punched a turnover in the Detroit zone past Legace seven minutes into the 2nd period.. Chris Chelios tried carrying the puck out on a transition, but Scott Thornton stepped up on the fore check. Chelios reacted by trying to clear the puck off the ice, but it took a funny hop and kicked over to Cheechoo at the top of the left circle.

Jiri Fischer made it a 3-2 game five minutes later by snapping a shot from the slot past Nabokov after taking a centering pass from Tomas Holmstrom.

San Jose would clamp down on the Rd Wings in the 3rd period, seemingly stopping them at every attempt to enter the Sharks zone. The Sharks would benefit from a strange play when Legace got tied up behind his own net, leaving his goal wide open. Alyn McCauley tried feeding Alexander Korolyuk with a pass from the left corner, but the puck kicked off Korolyuk's skate and into the open net. Detroit argued that Legace was interfered with, but referee Dan Marouelli rejected the argument.

San Jose would ice the game when Vincent Damphousse scored his 9th of the season after poking a loose puck over the goal line. Patrick Marleau created the opportunity by firing a shot off Legace's chest. The puck floated over Legace and into his crease, before Damphousse and two Detroit defenders stabbed at it. The goal was credited to the Sharks senior statesman, which also gave him 1,200 career points.

Play of the Game
Although it came in a losing effort, Datsyuk's goal was highlight reel material. The Detroit forward carried the puck through traffic and made a nice move on Nabokov before depositing his 27th goal of the season. Jason Marshall and Hannan could do little stop the Red Wings forward once he had momentum and the puck. Both defender tried to react from by converging, but it did little good.

The Turning Point
Cheechoo's first goal allowed the Sharks to breath a little after weathering the storm that Detroit threw at them early in the game. San Jose capitalized on a lucky bounce on Hannan's goal, but Cheechoo just outskated everyone to the puck and buried it.

Save of the Game
Nabokov came up huge with eight minutes to play in regulation and the Sharks holding a 4-2 lead in the game. Brett Hull ripped a one timer from 15 feet out, but Nabokov did the splits, kicking the shot out of harms way. Had Hull scored, the Wings pull to within a goal with plenty of time on the clock. One fo the biggest saves of the year.

Box Scores Do No Justice
Legace call the nod in net after Curtis Joseph injured himself in the pre-game skate. Joseph was penciled in as the Red Wings starter, but he suffered what it being reported as an ankle injury. Legace and Joseph both saw action in the Red Wings 8-6 loss to the Mighty Ducks on Sunday.

Honorable Mention
Hats off to the officiating crew for putting their whistles in their pockets and letting these two division leaders duke it out on the ice. Only four penalties were called all night and one came on a Steve Thomas slashing penalty once the game was well out of reach. Both teams were allowed to play, and as a result, fans were treated to one of the most electrifying games at HP Pavilion this season.

"Apparently, we're in. It's a great feeling. Our guys have worked really hard. I never would have predicted 94 points, let alone a chance at 100 points." - sharks head coach Ron Wilson

"We've got about a week and a half to sharpen up our game before the playoffs, and I think we can still get better. Getting in (the playoffs) is nice, but we're more worried about first place in our division and staying with Colorado." - Vincent Damphousse

"Nothing is going our way. There's no explaining this. We're having some breakdowns. We out-chanced them, but that didn't give us any goals." - Detroit head coach Dave Lewis

Damphousse tied Dino Ciccarelli for 38th place on the NHL's career scoring list

Marshall recorded his first point as a Sharks with his assist on Cheechoo's 1st period goal.

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