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Hot hands deliver 4th straight
Offense continues to mint goals
12/8/05 - by Mike Lee

So this is what the "new NHL" is supposed to be like. Scoring more like football and less like soccer. It's taken the Sharks a quarter of a season and a major trade to finally open things up, but the results are nothing to argue with. San Jose set a franchise record on Thursday night by scoring five or more goals in four consecutive games, with a 6-2 white washing of the visiting Florida Panthers at HP Pavilion.

Sharks captain Patrick Marleau continues to be the biggest benefactor of the Joe Thornton acquisition and his hot streak continued with another three point night. Marleau's scoring tear give him 12 points over the four game stretch since Thornton arrived.

"Thornton and Marleau are moving up the ladder in a hurry," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "They're making a statement as far as the Canadian Olympic team goes. Patty's playing the best hockey I've ever seen from him. He has 12 points, and he should have 20. It's fun to watch."

The Sharks also got Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov back in net. The netminder turned aside 34 shots in his first game back since suffering a strained groin in Buffalo on December 2nd.

A weary Panthers team didn't get into San Jose until 5am Thursday morning because their charter flight couldn't get out of Dallas the night before. After losing to the Stars on Wednesday night, their plane had to be de-iced, which delayed the departure by several hours.

Florida showed little effects of their harrowing journey to San Jose, out-shooting the Sharks in all three periods. The Panthers peppered Nabokov in the opening period, but walked away with a tie going into the first intermission on a Stephen Weiss goal.

"We wanted to have a good start, like 15 shots, and we almost reached that goal -- then all of a sudden, it's 5-1," captain Olli Jokinen said. "Especially, Marleau was tremendous. He beat us two against one. They outplayed us in the second period, and that was the game."

Alyn McCauley had staked the Sharks to a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period, by stuffing a rebound past Panthers goaltender Jamie McLennan. Marleau initiated things by bouncing a shot attempt off the left post, which redirected directly to McCauley in the slot.

McLennan probably wished he had missed the flight from Dallas after the Sharks roughed him up in the 2nd period. Mark Smith scored back-to-back goals and Marleau and Grant Stevenson chipped in tallies to run the Sharks lead to 5-1 by the second break.

"We're playing with a lot more confidence, and we're getting some of the breaks that we weren't getting," said Smith, who had the first multi-goal game of his career. "But what can you say about Patty Marleau? He's elevated his game to a whole new level that I haven't seen before."

Marleau converted on a scrum in front if the Panthers net after Thornton tried chipping in a shot from eight feet out. The Sharks captain scooped up the rebound as he cut across the slot and easily swept the puck into an empty net for his 12th goal of the season.

"It's just a combination of some new linemates and everybody playing together," said Marleau, who has thrived with McCauley's recent addition to his line. "We've got that sense of urgency back that we were lacking. (The trade) definitely shook things up, but Joe's linemates are a big part of it, too."

Stevenson capitalized on a near miss by Marleau three minutes later. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff sent a clearing pass the from deep in the Sharks zone to Marleau who was breaking at center ice. After moving past a Florida defender, Marleau tried stuffing a shot past McLennan, but the Panthers netminder snuffed the break. Stevenson swooped in after trailing the play and backhanded his third goal of the season.

Jozef Stumpel scored a goal late to cut the Sharks lead to 5-2, but Scott Thornton put the game out of reach with two minutes to play after taking a feed from his cousin and lifting a shot over McLennan.

"It's disappointing, that's all I can say," defenseman Mike Van Ryn said. "It wasn't a good night for the goalie."


The First four picks of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft participated in the game. Joe Thornton was the 1st overall pick (Boston), Patrick Marleau was second (San Jose), Olli Jokinen was 3rd (Los Angeles) and Roberto Luongo was taken 4th (Florida).

The Sharks assigned goaltender Nolan Schaefer to Cleveland (AHL) on Thursday.
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1 2 3 T
FLA 1 1 0 2
SJ 1 4 1 6
1st period - 1, San Jose, McCauley 7 (Marleau, Dimitrakos), 11:02. 2, Florida, Weiss 9 (Gelinas, Kolnik), 14:05.
2nd period - 3, San Jose, Smith 4 (Langfeld), 5:23. 4, San Jose, Smith 5 (Langfeld, Davison), 9:04. 5, San Jose, Marleau 12 (S.Thornton, J.Thornton), 12:02, (pp). 6, San Jose, Stevenson 3 (Marleau, Ehrhoff), 14:56. 7, Florida, Stumpel 1 (Bouwmeester, Montador), 15:40.
3rd period - 8, San Jose, S.Thornton 4 (J.Thornton), 17:59.
1st period - Jokinen, FLA (goaltender interference), 4:00; Preissing, SJS (tripping), 15:25.
2nd period - Semenov, FLA (tripping), 2:21; Olesz, FLA (tripping), 3:06; Montador, FLA (interference), 11:03; Nabokov, SJS, served by Michalek (delay of game), 16:33.
3rd period - S.Thornton, SJS (hooking), 10:09; S.Thornton, SJS (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:10; McCauley, SJS (holding), 19:39.
  Shots Saves
FLA - McLennan 24 18
SJ - Toskala 36 34
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
FLA 13 15 8 36
SJ 5 12 7 24
Power Play Conversion
FLA 0 of 5
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Patrick Marleau
Evgeni Nabokov
Mark Smith
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Vaughan Rody.

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