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Still red hot after break
SJ wins 6th straight
12/16/05 - by Mike Lee

Christmas is just over a week away, which means Jonathan Cheechoo has some shopping to do. After scoring another goal on a feed from Joe Thornton on Friday night, Cheechoo had better plan on buying something very nice for his new centerman. At the pace these two are clicking, Cheechoo may be in the running for this year's Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, given to the goal scoring leader in the NHL each year. Thornton setup Cheechoo's 13th goal of the season (and 6th is six games since Thornton was acquired) in a 4-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals at HP Pavilion.

OK, so maybe the Richard Trophy is a little overboard, but there's no doubt Cheechoo has risen to another level since being teamed up with his new superstar linemate.

San Jose returned from a five day hiatus, picking up right were they left off with their sixth win in a row. The victory vaults the Sharks back into the Western Conference race, and brings them back to a single digit deficit in the race for the Pacific Division crown. The extended vacation could have thrown the Sharks off their winning ways, but they continued their trend of scoring early and often.

"We were sharp right from the get-go, but we looked pretty sharp in practice," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. "We talked about the layoff at length before the game, and I thought we responded well. Obviously, it helps having a guy like Joe Thornton making the plays he did."

Cheechoo gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead after he broke in on net as Thornton surveyed things from behind the Capitals net. Thornton slipped a centering pass to Cheechoo in the slot before the Sharks winger one-timed a shot past Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

Thornton would wield a little wizardry four minutes later with a goal of his own. The 6'5" centerman deftly slipped past defenseman Ivan Majesky with a fancy piece of skating along the left wing boards, then floated across the top of the crease and put a backhanded shot past Kolzig.

"I just picked up my speed and went around the defenseman," Thornton said. "The other defenseman kind of picked up Cheech, and there was an open net."

The goal gave Thornton his sixth consecutive multi-point game, setting a new franchise record. He also has a twelve game scoring streak going, dating back to November when he was playing for Boston.

The Sharks rookie line of Milan Michalek, Josh Langfeld and Marcel Goc teamed up for the Sharks third goal of the game at 2:13 of the 2nd period. Langfeld sprung Michalek with a pass from center ice after Goc had worked the puck free in the Sharks defensive zone. Michalek took the pass then waltzed around the Capitals defense, before depositing the puck through Kolzig's pads for the 3-0 lead.

Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov would relinquish a shutout 7:48 into the final period, when Ben Clymer deflected a Shaone Mooisonn shot from the point. Nabokov was sharp all night, but he stepped thing up in the 3rd period after the Capitals tried turning up the heat.

Alyn McCauley would quell any ideas of a comeback after ripping his 8th goal of the season past Kolzig with 4:16 left in regulation. McCauley was rewarded for a strong overall performance, especially on the penalty kill. The Sharks killed off all five Washington power plays, mainly in part to McCauley.

"We didn't do a lot of things well until late," captain Jeff Halpern said. "That Thornton line particularly, you can't let them go early and let them get their confidence up. Every time I've watched them, they've looked good."

Notes:

Kyle McLaren was forced to sit out Friday night's game after undergoing minor knee surgery on Thursday.

The win also marked the Sharks 9th consecutive win over the Capitals, dating back to 1999.

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Scoring
1 2 3 T
WAS 0 0 1 1
SJ 2 1 1 4
1st period - 1, San Jose, Cheechoo 13 (J.Thornton, S.Thornton), 12:06. 2, San Jose, J.Thornton 12 (S.Thornton, Preissing), 16:27.
2nd period - 3, San Jose, Michalek 4 (Langfeld, Goc), 2:13.
3rd period - 4, Washington, Clymer 5 (Morrisonn, Sutherby), 7:48. 5, San Jose, McCauley 8 (Marleau, Stevenson), 15:44.
Penalties
1st period - Zubrus, WAS (tripping), 6:26; Clark, WAS (delay of game), 7:06; J.Thornton, SJS (hooking), 7:57; Willsie, WAS (interference), 17:24.
2nd period - Smith, SJS (tripping), 2:42; Witt, WAS (holding), 5:12; Ekman, SJS (interference), 13:27; Willsie, WAS (hooking), 14:05; Bradley, WAS (cross-checking), 16:03; Dimitrakos, SJS (hooking), 18:45.
3rd period - Cheechoo, SJS (tripping), 18:37.
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
WAS - Kolzig 33 29
SJ - Nabokov 26 25
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
WAS 8 9 9 26
SJ 10 13 10 33
Power Play Conversion
WAS 0 of 5
SJ 0 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Thornton
Tom Preissing
Scott Thornton
Attendence
16,459
Officials
Referees: Shane Heyer, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Brad Lazarowich.

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