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Shooting blanks
Shootout still proves fruitless
2/2/06 - by Mike Lee

Painful, would be the word that best describes what it's like to watch the Sharks during a shootout this season. Thursday night's shootout was mercilessly painful after San Jose missed on all five attempts to get the puck past Minnesota Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez. Brian Rolston converted on the Wild's fifth attempt, cashing in on the Sharks inability to score during the NHL's answer to tie games.

It got so bad for the Sharks that Niko Dimitrakos failed to even stick handle the puck all the way in on net during his shootout attempt. Dimitrakos was forced to double back and send a weak wrist shot at Fernandez from 15 feet out after mishandling the puck.

Sharks coach Ron Wilson paraded out Nils Ekman, Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton, Dimitrakos and Grant Stevenson in succession and all five failed to even get the puck remotely close to the goal line. Captain Patrick Marleau wasn't in Wilson's top five list of shooters because he's already failed on five shootout attempts this season.

"The biggest story of the game was Manny (Fernandez) stopping five shots in a row," Rolston said. "All we needed was one and I got it. This was a huge road win."

What was lost in the misery of this latest Sharks defeat was a stellar goaltending performance by Vesa Toskala. The Finnish netminder made several highlight reel saves in regulation and overtime, after his defense repeatedly hung him out to dry. Toskala stoned Marion Gaborik on three scoring chances, including one with less than 30 remaining in regulation.

Toskala was actually nursing a 2-1 lead in the 3rd period, when Mark Smith was whistled for covering the puck with his hand in the crease. That infraction carries a penalty shot as the punishment, and Gaborik would make the Sharks pay. The Wild forward snapped a lightning quick shot after racing in on the ensuing one-on-one faceoff between goaltender and the lone skater.

"I had a break on him and I got it," Gaborik said. "Manny has been Mr. Consistent all year. He has made some unbelievable saves this year and he showed it again in the shootout."

After narrowly escaping from a lethargic 1st period, the Sharks would give up a goal on a missed defensive assignment by Tom Preissing at 2:03 of the 2nd period. Scott Thornton would answer with a goal for San Jose three minutes later. Thornton fought for a loose puck in the middle of a scrum before slipping it past Fernandez.

San Jose grabbed a 2-1 lead on Joe Thornton's 18th goal of the season just 1:14 into the 3rd period. Thornton riffled a slap shot from the top of the left circle, but the puck appeared to be misdirected by a Wild defenseman. Fernandez was crossed up on the shot, which slipped under his glove hand for the goal.

Neither team generated any serious scoring threat in the overtime period, but that played perfectly in to the Wild's hands. San Jose had been 1-5 in the shootout this season, so all Minnesota had to do was get through the overtime period in order to exploit one of the Sharks biggest weaknesses this year.

"Toward the end we were running out of gas but we got a point so I'm not disappointed," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "I'm not going to view this as a loss."

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1 2 3 OTSO T
MIN 0 1 1 01 3
SJ 0 1 1 00 2
1st period - None
2nd period - 1, Minnesota, Robitaille 12 (Chouinard, Zyuzin), 2:03, (pp). 2, San Jose, Thornton 9 (Bernier, Murray), 5:00.
3rd period - 3, San Jose, Thornton 18 (Cheechoo, Ekman), 1:14. 4, Minnesota, Gaborik 20, 14:59 (ps).
Overtime - None
Shootout - Round 1 - MIN - M. Koivu - No Goal (0-0) Round 1 - SJ - N. Ekman - No Goal (0-0) Round 2 - MIN - M. Gaborik - No Goal (0-0) Round 2 - SJ - J. Cheechoo - No Goal (0-0) Round 3 - MIN - R. Robitaille - No Goal (0-0) Round 3 - SJ - J. Thornton - No Goal (0-0) Round 4 - MIN - D. Tjarnqvist - No Goal (0-0) Round 4 - SJ - N. Dimitrakos - No Goal (0-0) Round 5 - MIN - B. Rolston - Scores (1-0) Round 5 - SJ - G. Stevenson - No Goal (1-0)
1st period - Bouchard, MIN (hooking), 0:36; Goc, SJS (hooking), 10:07; Bouchard, MIN (hooking), 17:01.
2nd period - Cheechoo, SJS (tripping), 0:24; Kuba, MIN (tripping), 2:42.
3rd period -Ekman, SJS (tripping), 4:00.
Overtime - None.
  Shots Saves
MIN - Fernandez 23 21
SJ - Toskala 32 30
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 OT T
MIN 10 12 10 0 32
SJ 4 11 8 0 23
Power Play Conversion
MIN 1 of 3
SJ 0 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Marion Gaborik
Vesa Toskala
Manny Fernandez
Referees: Paul Devorski, Tom Kowal. Linesmen: Brian Murphy, Jay Sharrers.

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