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Lopsided win kicks off roadtrip
Sharks climb to within 1 point of 8th seed
3/21/06 - by Mike Lee

Momentum will be an important thing for the Sharks to maintain over the last 15 games of the season, and they started their five-game road trip off on the right foot by blanking the St Louis Blues 6-0 at the Savvis Center in Missouri on Tuesday night. Steve Bernier continued to wield a hot shooting hand, bagging a pair of goals for the third time in two weeks, and Vesa Toskala turned aside 33 shots for the shutout.

After surprising many teams over the last three weeks, the Blues have cooled off at the perfect time for San Jose. After winning 5-2 in San Jose last week, the Sharks finished the season series with a 3-0-1 record against St Louis in the season series. The only loss was a 2-1 shootout decision in St Louis back in December.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored his team leading 43rd goal five-minutes into the game, and the Sharks never looked back. The goal leaves his one shy of Owen Nolan's team record of 44 goals in a season set back in 2000.

After Cheechoo provided the Sharks with all the offense they would need, Bernier provided them with some breathing room in the 2nd period. He scored his first goal by pouncing on a rebound in front of the net, after Patrick Marleau bounced a shot off Blues goaltender Reinhard Divis at 1:09 of the 2nd period.

Bernier would score a highlight reel goal five minutes later after serving an interference penalty. Alyn McCauley passed the puck up the ice just as Bernier was stepping out of the penalty box, springing the Sharks rookie winger. What he did next was a sight to behold. Bernier skated in on net from the right wing, holding his stick solely with his right hand while fighting off Christian Backman with his left. As he crashed in on Divis, he did a 360-degree spin through the crease with the puck in tow, before stabbing it home for the 3-0 lead.

McCauley would add a goal of his own midway through the 3rd period by rifling a shot from the left dot, ringing it off the far post.

"We had a couple of good chances we couldn't score on," Divis said. "And they took advantage of their chances."

Mark Smith and Nils Ekman would add goals themselves later in the period to complete the rout.

Toskala was tested on several occasions, including one sequence that almost cost him the shutout. With the Blues pressuring on the power play, Toskala swatted a Denis Wideman shot out of mid-air as the Blues defender tried wristing home a tally.

The Sharks goaltender was faced with seven St Louis power play chances, but his defense kept shooting lanes open for much of the night. He put things back into perspective after the game, focusing on the Sharks ultimate task at hand, which is to make the playoffs.

"It's nice, but these are the kind of must-wins for us if we want to make it to the playoffs," Toskala said. "Those two points are more important than my shutout."

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1 2 3 T
SJ 1 2 3 6
STL 0 0 0 0
1st period - 1, San Jose, Cheechoo 43 (Ekman, Thornton), 4:53.
2nd period - 2, San Jose, Bernier 7 (Marleau, Preissing), 1:09. 3, San Jose, Bernier 8 (McCauley), 6:17.
3rd period - 4, San Jose, McCauley 12, 11:34, (sh). 5, San Jose, Smith 8 (Rissmiller), 13:33. 6, San Jose, Ekman 16 (Cheechoo), 17:35.
1st period - Walker, STL (slashing), 11:18; Young, STL (holding), 14:04; Smith, SJS (interference), 16:13.
2nd period - Bernier, SJS (interference), 4:08; Ehrhoff, SJS (tripping), 14:30; Davison, SJS major (fighting), 16:59; Mayers, STL major (fighting), 16:59.
3rd period - Tkachuk, STL (high-sticking), 0:02; Parker, SJS (hooking), 2:41; McLaren, SJS (hooking), 9:45; Bench, SJS served by Bernier (too many men), 14:29; Smith, SJS (holding), 19:11.
  Shots Saves
SJ - Toskala 33 33
STL - Divis 29 23
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 12 6 11 29
STL 9 15 9 33
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 3
STL 0 of 7
3 Stars of the Game
Vesa Toskala
Steve Bernier
Jonathan Cheechoo
Referees: Blaine Angus, Dean Warren. Linesmen: Mike Cvik, Dan Schachte.

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