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Homestand starts off right
This time SJ holds 3rd lead vs Oilers
3/9/06 - by Mike Lee

The 8th seed in the Western Conference is only six points out of the Sharks reach thanks to a 5-2 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. The Oilers are the team San Jose is trying to catch for that final playoff spot, so the game was essentially a four point affair for both clubs. Had the Sharks lost, they would have been faced with a ten point deficit in the standings. A blown lead in Edmonton earlier this week cost the Sharks dearly as four teams continue to fight for that last spot in the West.

Three 3rd period goals on Thursday night ensured that Edmonton wouldn't steal any points this time around. Rookie Steve Bernier made sure of that with a pair of goals to ice the game. Joe Thornton scored the game winning goal just 11 seconds into the 3rd period and added his league leading 65th assist on the games opening score.

Thornton and linemates Jonathan Cheechoo and Nils Ekman broke a 2-2 tie by storming up the ice after a faceoff win and stuffing the puck past new Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Thornton buried a pass from Cheechoo as the two skated in on Roloson uncontested.

"We knew this one would be a big swing, and that's why it was so important," said goalie Vesa Toskala. "It was a four-point game. Now we're not that far back."

Milan Michalek openend the game's scoring early in the 2nd period on a put back after the puck pinballed in the Oilers crease. Thornton crashed the net in an attempt to find the net, causing all kinds of commotion in front of Roloson. Michalek, who was lurking on the left post, pounced on the loose puck and deposited a backhand shot through traffic.

The Oilers put up a fight by answering the Sharks twice in the period. Jarret Stoll snapped home a shot from the slot on a pass fro Radek Dvorak after Scott Thornton turned over the puck deep in his own zone.

After Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead on an easy tap in midway through the period, Raffi Torres knotted things up for the Oilers after pinching in from the blueline and firing a shot past Vesa Toskala from 20 feet out.

Newly acquired left win Ville Nieminen introduced himself to Sharks fans with the hit of the game on Ryan Smyth after Torres' goal, helping to spark some energy on the Sharks bench. Nieminen also bowled over Shawn Horcoff in the period and blocked a pair of shots as the Oilers tried to build some momentum.

"The young guys with the way they're competing, they're really hungry, and that's what you need at this point in the season," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Not guys who are afraid to fail, but guys that go out there and compete really hard."

Bernier recorded his first multi-goal game in the NHL with a tally at the 3:42 mark of the 3rd period, then again with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. His first score came on a broken three-on-one chance, after he flubbed on the initial pass to Scott Hannan. The puck found its way back to Bernier, who jammed it home.

Marleau setup Bernier for the game's final score with a centering pass from behind the net.

"It's fun to win, but when you score two goals, your confidence goes way up," Bernier said of his first career multigoal game.

Notes:

Toskala got the start in part because Evgeni Nabokov suffered an upper body injury in the overtime loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Tuesday night. The Sharks recalled Nolan Schaefer to serve as Toskala's backup.

Scott Parker returned to the lineup after an extensive absence due to an injury.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
EDM 0 2 0 2
SJ 0 2 3 5
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, San Jose, Michalek 13 (J.Thornton, Ehrhoff), 1:01. 2, Edmonton, Stoll 17 (Dvorak), 8:29. 3, San Jose, Marleau 28 (Bernier, Michalek), 11:26. 4, Edmonton, Torres 22 (Tarnstrom, Dvorak), 16:08.
3rd period - 5, San Jose, J.Thornton 25 (Cheechoo, Ekman), 0:11. 6, San Jose, Bernier 3 (Hannan, Michalek), 3:42. 7, San Jose, Bernier 4 (Marleau, Gorges), 17:14.
Penalties
1st period - Moreau, EDM (roughing), 4:36; Marleau, SJS (holding), 12:45; Moreau, EDM (holding), 14:57.
2nd period - Pronger, EDM (hooking), 0:08; Ekman, SJS (hooking), 0:08; Stoll, EDM (tripping), 12:06.
3rd period - Ekman, SJS (high-sticking), 6:00; Tarnstrom, EDM (holding), 8:04; Hannan, SJS (hooking), 10:41.
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
EDM - Roloson 31 26
SJ - Toskala 21 19
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
EDM 5 10 6 21
SJ 8 12 11 31
Power Play Conversion
EDM 0 of 3
SJ 0 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Steve Bernier
Milan Michalek
Joe Thornton
Attendence
15,878
Officials
Referees: Eric Furlatt, Tom Kowal. Linesmen: Andy McElman, Mark Wheler.

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