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Wild record setting night
S.J. gets back on track in Minnesota
3/25/06 - by Mike Lee

The Sharks finally did to Minnesota, what they failed to do in three previous tries this season. Beat them. In knocking off the Wild 5-1 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, the Sharks also continued their success against teams they should be beating. More importantly, the victory pushed the Sharks into a playoff spot, pending the outcome of the Canucks - Oilers and the Kings- Predators games later in the evening.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored his 44th and 45th goals of the season, allowing him to tie, then pass Owen Nolan franchise mark. Joe Thornton also had three assists on the night breaking the franchise record of 52 set by Kelly Kisio back in 1993. Remarkably, Thornton accomplished the goal in only 45 games.

"This was a huge win for us," defenseman Tom Preissing said. "Earlier in the year we hadn't played these guys very well. We are treating every game like it's a playoff game right now and each point is important."

With all the record setting, the night belonged to Vesa Toskala, who kept the Wild at bay in a wide-open 1st period. Minnesota tried to jump on the Sharks early on, but the Sharks netminder turned aside all 11 shots the Wild threw at him during the period.

"Our goalie kept us in the game early," Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said. "We started out a little slow in the first period, but once we got our legs, we were OK. It's a wake-up call when your goalie has to constantly bail you out."

After their offense-free showing in Detroit on Thursday, Cheechoo would lead a return to the score sheet with a goal 3:37 into the game on a cross-ice feed from Nils Ekman.

Brian Rolston would provide the Wild with their only tally midway through the 2nd period on a breakaway. Marian Gaborik would have another one-on-one chance in the 3rd period, but Toskala eliminated a repeat performance of Rolston's goal with a nifty poke-check that sent the puck fluttering harmlessly away from the Sharks net.

Minnesota's deficiencies have been showcased over the last five games, where they have failed to win a contest.

"We're just a fragile team right now," Wild forward Wes Walz said. "It seems like when we have a little bit of adversity, when something goes wrong, you can feel it on the bench, it kind of sinks. Unless we get a goal or something really positive happens, it's tough. I think falling out of the playoff race takes the wind out of your sails for sure."

Milan Michalek would add his 15th goal of the season on a one-timer from the slot while the Sharks were on one of their seven power play chances on the evening.

"I didn't have much time or space to do anything else," said Michalek, who has 15 goals this season. "It's not the type of shot that I practice. I guess I got kind of lucky."

The goal would turn out to be the game winner, but San Jose add three more goals in the final period to establish some breathing room.

Minnesota would back themselves into a corner by taking two minor penalties 1:24 apart, which provided the Sharks with a short 5-on-3 opportunity. San Jose failed to score with the two-man advantage, but they would score 19 seconds after the first penalty expired. Patrick Marleau showed cat-like reflexes by punching home a Thornton pass, which was redirectd by a Wild player in the slot.

Cheechoo added his second of the evening with a blast from inside the Minnesota blueline, after Thornton left him a drop pass on a three-on-two rush.

Sharks defenseman Matt Carle, playing in his first NHL games after signing a contract on Sunday, would score his first career goal on a shot from the point with 17 ticks left in regulation.


Mike O'Connell, the Boston Bruins G.M. and man who gifted Joe Thornton to the Sharks, was fired by the Bruins on Saturday. After O'Connell's deal that sent Thornton to the Sharks and Sergei Samsanov to the Edmonton Oilers seemingly failed to get the Bruins into the playoffs, the organization decided it has had enough of O'Connell's charity to other teams around the league.

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1 2 3 T
SJ 1 1 3 5
MIN 0 1 0 1
1st period - 1, San Jose, Cheechoo 44 (Ekman, Thornton), 3:37.
2nd period - 2, Minnesota, Rolston 30 (Robitaille, Schultz), 8:32. 3, San Jose, Michalek 15 (Marleau, Preissing), 13:18, (pp).
3rd period - 4, San Jose, Marleau 32 (Thornton, Cheechoo), 5:43, (pp). 5, San Jose, Cheechoo 45 (Thornton, Ekman), 11:41. 6, San Jose, Carle 1 (Rissmiller), 19:43.
1st period - Cheechoo, SJS (hooking), 10:44; Skoula, MIN (delay of game), 17:37.
2nd period - McLaren, SJS (hooking), 1:13; Carle, SJS (holding), 5:38; Zyuzin, MIN (interference), 9:12; Carle, SJS (hooking), 9:28; Koivu, MIN (hooking), 12:19; Zyuzin, MIN (elbowing), 14:14; Goc, SJS (tripping), 18:12.
3rd period Ehrhoff, SJS (cross-checking), 2:03; Tjarnqvist, MIN (slashing), 3:24; Foster, MIN (high-sticking), 4:28; Tjarnqvist, MIN (holding), 13:26.
  Shots Saves
SJ - Toskala 25 24
MIN - Fernandez 23 18
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 6 8 9 23
MIN 11 8 6 25
Power Play Conversion
SJ 2 of 7
MIN 0 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathan Cheechoo
Vesa Toskala
Joe Thornton
Referees: Bill McCreary, Dean Morton. Linesmen: Brian Mach, Thor Nelson.

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