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Regular season finale a winner
Stuart ties game late with a pair of goals
4/4/04 - by Mike Lee

The Sharks regular season finale on Sunday was a meaningless contest to them and the visiting Los Angeles Kings. At least that's what it appeared to be for 59 minutes of regulation. That all changed in the blink on an eye, after Brad Stuart scored two goals in the final 20 seconds of the 3rd period to help pull the Sharks back from a 3-1 deficit. After Stuart tied the game with 2.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Vincent Damphousse capped another improbable Sharks comeback with an overtime goal to cap an incomprehensible season.

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1 2 3 OT T
LA 1 0 2 0 3
SJ 1 0 2 1 4
1st period - S.J, A. KOROLYUK (18) (N. EKMAN, M. RATHJE), 05:24 L.A, N. DEMPSEY (11) (E. PIRNES), 10:36
2nd period - NONE
3rd period - L.A, J. MODRY (4) (E. BELANGER, M. STRAKA), 05:52 L.A, J. TRIPP (0) (E. PIRNES), 13:22 S.J, B. STUART (7) (N. EKMAN, A. MCCAULEY), 19:40 S.J, B. STUART (7) (V. DAMPHOUSSE, A. MCCAULEY), 19:57
Overtime - S.J, V. DAMPHOUSSE (11) (P. MARLEAU, S. HANNAN), 03:10
1st period - L.A, A. MILLER, 05:09 - Holding - Obstruction
2nd period - S.J, W. PRIMEAU, 14:56 - Holding L.A, T. KLATT, 15:43 - Tripping S.J, J. MARSHALL, 18:18 - Holding - Obstruction
3rd period - L.A, L. ROBITAILLE, 18:42 - Holding
Overtime - None
  Shots Saves
LA - Chechmanek 42 38
SJ - Nabokov 28 25
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 OT T
LA 6 7 13 2 28
SJ 14 7 19 2 42
Power Play Conversion
LA 0 of 2
SJ 2 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Brad Stuart
Alyn McCauley
Vincent Damphousse
As San Jose prepares for a first round date with the St Louis Blues, the Kings prepare for the golf links, having been eliminated from the playoff race a week ago. San Jose appeared to be resolved with a two goal loss as the regular season ticked into oblivion, but the hockey gods shined down during the afternoon affair with a little divine intervention.

Stuart would score his first of the game on a slapshot from the slot with 20 seconds left in the 3rd after Luc Robitaille was sent off for holding and Sharks head coach Ron Wilson pulled Evgeni Nabokov. Stuart's shot squeezed through Roman Chechmanek's pads as several players converged on the net.

The goal cut the Kings lead to 3-2, but with only a few ticks remaining on the clock, the Sharks looked poorly positioned to do anything about it.

San Jose would change that position by winning the ensuing faceoff at center ice and dumping the puck into the LA zone. Tom Preissing made a game saving play by lunging to keep a Kings clearing attempt in the zone. Alyn McCauley then chipped the puck up to Damphousse as the Kings scrambled to get to the puck. Damphousse surveyed the ice for a second before sending a laser pass to the top of the crease. Two Kings defenders setup to defend a pass to the far post where Nils Ekman was parked, but Stuart pinched in at the last moment and redirected the puck past Chechmanek.

The arena erupted and a typically reserved Stuart let out a howl and pumped his fist after knotting the game at 3-3.

Both teams exchanged scoring chances in the overtime period before Damphousse ended things with a wrist shot from ten feet out. The veteran centerman grabbed a loose puck near the right dot as he skated toward the glass. He did a quick 180 then raced in on Chechmanek as the Kings defense appeared to freeze on the play. The Kings goaltender had no choice but to challenge Damphousse, but the shot snapped inside the left post.

Chechmanek and his stunned teammates scurried off the ice as the Sharks mobbed Damphousse.

Kings head coach Andy Murray had to be banging his head against the dressing room wall after his teamed coughed up a two goal lead that late in the game.

The Kings scored three straight after Alexander Korolyuk bagged his 19th of the season early in the 1st period.

Nathan Dempsey got on the score sheet first for LA midway through the opening period by one-timing a Esa Pirnes shot past Evgeni Nabokov from the slot. Pirnes picked Stuart's pocket behind the Sharks net then setup Dempsey from behind the right post.

After a scoreless 2nd period, Jaroslav Modry made it 2-1 six minutes into the 3rd with a rocket from the bottom of the left circle. Modry fooled Wayne Primeau with a fake shot from along the left wing boards, then raced up the ice, before uncorking a shot that nailed the upper right corner of the net.

John Tripp would push the Kings lead to 3-1 by snapping a face off draw past Nabokov at 13:22 of the period.

Play of the Game
It doesn't get much more exciting than a game tying goals with 2.3 seconds remaining in regulation 17 seconds after you just scored to pull your team to within a goal. Stuart's heroics make Jonathan Cheechoo's rabbit out the hat goals in Dallas two weeks ago seem like a second rate achievement in the thriller department. It makes you wonder if the Sharks are on the verge of pulling off one of the biggest magic tricks in NHL history or if they've used up all their magic this season.

The Turning Point
Aside from Stuart's first goal, the play that Preissing made to keep the play alive as time ticked down to under 10 seconds in regulation is one of those unheralded achievements that brought the Sharks back from the dead.

Save of the Game
Chechmanek was hung out to dry by his defense in the last minute of regulation and most of overtime. He actually delayed the Sharks comeback by making a highlight reel stop on Patrick Marleau with just under a minute to play in the 3rd. Marleau took a cross ice pass from Damphousse as he was parked on the Kings doorstep all alone. Chechmanek was able to adjust and throw his glove out in time to stone Marleau's one

Box Scores Do No Justice
Under all the pandemonium and heroics was a Sharks special teams unit that went two for three on the power play and two for two on the penalty kill. Success in the playoffs is largely dictated by how successful a team is on special teams play, so the Sharks 15th ranked power play and 7th ranked penalty kill will be put to the test.

Honorable Mention
As fans bounced up and down after the game winner and the Sharks streamed onto the ice, a record holder quietly made what could have been his final NHL appearance. Kings forward Luc Robitaille, the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history with 653 goals and 1,370 points, is uncertain if he'll be playing next season. With the pending labor dispute on the horizon, Robitaille is an unrestricted free agent and the Kings have not made a decision on what they'll do with the veteran forward. In what may have been his final gesture as a player, Robitaille skated over to the scorer's table after the game and shook hands with the on-ice officiating crew, before heading off the ice.

"That's sort of the way we've done it all season: We find a lot of ways to surprise you. We're not a surprise to ourselves, though. Nobody has really expected us to do much all year, but as long as we're confident in this room, that's all that matters." - Brad Stuart

"There wasn't much at stake for both clubs, but we did what we needed to do. I think we were waiting for Thursday to step it up, but we got started with this one." - Vincent Damphousse

"It's been the story of our team the whole season to not give up. When everyone thinks we're out of the game or out of the season, we find a way to bounce back." - Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

"It just rips your heart out. To not be in the playoffs and then to have this last game go like this is tough. ... I'm kind of numb right now as you can imagine." - Kings head coach Andy Murray

"I want to come back, it's just circumstances I can't control. We'll see what's going to happen with that, but I know I have one more good year in me. ... I don't think it'd be a problem with the Kings, but there's the labor agreement. Those are the factors for me, but I want to play one more year. I don't want it to end like this." - Luc Robitaille

The Sharks finished the season without losing consecutive games at home.

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