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Top line continues to shine
Another hat trick for Cheechoo
1/5/06 - by Mike Lee

Winning at home hasn't been a problem for the Sharks this season, so when you throw them against a team that has never won in San Jose, the odds tend to sway in favor of the boys in teal. That held true to form as the Sharks pummeled the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 at HP Pavilion on Thursday night.

Jonathan Cheechoo recorded his second hat trick of the season, and linemate Joe Thornton added a goal and three assists. Nils Ekman matched his performance against Colorado on Saturday with another four assist game. The trio has been on a tear since Sharks head coach Ron Wilson moved Ekman onto the line last week.

The Blue Jackets may be lucky to just get out of town without any major injuries. Three Columbus players didn't finish the game because of a variety of maladies. One of those players was Trevor Letowski, who sustained a chest injury after Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren unloaded on the Blue Jackets forward with a booming hip-check. Letowski was launched after absorbing the legal hit squarely in the letters while carrying the puck into the Sharks zone midway through the game.

San Jose looked like they would break the game open early after jumping on Marc Denis for two goals early on. Cheechoo scored the first of his three goals four minutes into the game on a bang-bang sequence in front of the Columbus net. Ekman tried stuffing a shot past Denis, but the netminder got a pad on the shot. Thornton then grabbed the rebound and slipped a touch pass to Cheechoo in the slot for the easy deposit.

Thornton would bag a goal of his own just over three minutes later on a similar scrum in front of the net. Denis would deny Ekman once again, but Thornton was there to scoop up the rebound and slip the puck into an open net.

The Blue Jackets would bounce back with two goals later in the period on goals by Rick Nash and Michael Rupp. Nash's tally came right after the first of two Sharks penalties expired. Doug Murray had been whistled for a cheap boarding call earlier which setup a Columbus 5-on-3.

Rupp beat Vesa Toskala with a shot from the top of the left circle, but the Sharks netminder didn't see the puck until it was too late.

Cheechoo and Grant Stevenson would score a pair of goals in the 2nd period to seal the victory. Cheechoo grabbed a faceoff draw in the slot and roofed a shot over Denis' glove for the 3-2 lead. Stevenson poked at a loose puck that Denis thought was covered for the 4-2 lead.

Nash scored his second of the night just 25 seconds into the 3rd period, but Christian Ehrhoff and Cheechoo put the game out of reach with another pair of goals. Cheechoo's coming on a power play break off a feed from Ekman.

Notes:

Ekman's eight points in the last two games are a franchise record. Sharks fan favorite Jody Shelly made several runs at Sharks players in retaliation for the punishing hits his teammates were absorbing all night. Shelly, you may recall, ended former Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart's season in 2002-03 with a crosscheck to the head that left Stuart with a severe concussion.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
CBJ 2 0 1 3
SJ 2 2 2 6
1st period - 1, San Jose, Cheechoo 21 (J.Thornton, Ekman), 3:58. 2, San Jose, J.Thornton 15 (Ekman, Ehrhoff), 7:33. 3, Columbus, Nash 6 (Fedorov, Berard), 10:42, (pp). 4, Columbus, Rupp 3 (Fritsche, Westcott), 12:13.
2nd period - 5, San Jose, Cheechoo 22 (Ekman, J.Thornton), 2:50. 6, San Jose, Stevenson 7 (Michalek, Goc), 10:31, (pp).
3rd period - 7, Columbus, Nash 7 (Berard, Zherdev), 0:25, (pp). 8, San Jose, Ehrhoff 1 (S.Thornton, McCauley), 5:41. 9, San Jose, Cheechoo 23 (Ekman, J.Thornton), 8:56, (pp).
Penalties
1st period - Murray, SJS (boarding), 8:29; McLaren, SJS (delay of game), 9:25; Berard, CLB (hooking), 14:12; Bench, CLB (served by Platt (too many men)), 15:07.
2nd period - Rupp, CLB (interference), 8:35; Michalek, SJS (holding), 18:30.
3rd period - Zherdev, CLB (holding stick), 7:59; Davison, SJS (hooking), 11:51; Vyborny, CLB (hooking), 19:02.
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
CBJ - Denis 39 33
SJ - Toskala 31 28
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
CBJ 12 8 11 31
SJ 16 10 13 39
Power Play Conversion
CBJ 2 of 4
SJ 2 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Jonahan Cheechoo
Nils Ekman
Joe Thornton
Attendence
15,275
Officials
Referees: Shane Heyer, Dave Jackson. Linesmen: Brian Murphy, Jay Sharrers.

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