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Cheechoo strikes gold
50th and 51st goals extend franchise mark
4/10/06 - by Mike Lee

Jonathan Cheechoo hit the gold standard on Monday night. The Sharks sniper recorded his 50th and 51st goals in a span of 44 seconds to help pace San Jose to a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at Glendale Arena in Phoenix, marking the first time a Sharks has eclipsed that storied milestone. More importantly, the Sharks passed the idle Colorado Avalanche and took sole position of the 6th seed in the Western Conference Standings.

San Jose trails the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim by three points for the 5th seed in the west after the Ducks knocked off the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at GM Place. San Jose has one remaining road game in Vancouver on Wednesday night before closing out the season with three games at HP Pavilion.

"We feel good about where we are from the last few months let alone the last few weeks," Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said. "We knew it was going to come down to the end of the season. We're right where we wanted to be."

The win came at the expense of a Coyotes team which was mathematically eliminated from the playoff race last week, but they've served as a bur in the Sharks hide all season long. It was the first victory over Phoenix this season in eight attempts, but it couldn't have come at a better time.

For Cheechoo, it was just another one of those nights. He kicked things off by assisting on Nils Ekman's 18th of the season midway through the 1st period. Cheechoo started the play with a shot that Coyotoes goaltender David LeNeveu stopped with a diving save. Matt Carle scooped up the rebound as he was cutting diagonally across the slot, but dished it back to Ekman rather than shoot. With LeNeveu already laid out on the ice after Cheechoo's shot, Ekman simply had to control Carle's pass before stuffing the puck home into an empty net.

Mike Comrie tied the game at 10:15 of the middle period, but Cheechoo responded with a one-two punch that sent the Coyotes to the mat 1:32 later. With Jamie Rivers already in the box for hooking, Keith Ballard took an ill advised delay of game penalty after he floated the puck over the glass on the penalty-kill.

On the ensuing 5-on-3, Joe Thornton fired a shot off LeNeveu's left pad, but the puck kicked out to Cheechoo in the slot. The Sharks winger rifled the rebound into the Phoenix goal to hit the 50-goal mark.

"That shift was the only good shift we had all night but it saves two points for us," Thornton said. "It was a tough night, but I'm glad we got the two points."

With Ballard still in the box, Thornton setup Cheechoo with his second goal of the evening with a pass through traffic. Cheechoo grabbed the pass while backing away from the goal just outside the left post, but he whipped the puck past LeNeveu from a tight angle to extend the Sharks lead to 3-2.

"There was still an angle there," Cheechoo said. "I knew he was paying attention to the other side of the net. Joe made a great pass and I basically just tried to get it on net and get it up a bit where he'd have trouble controlling it."

Steve Reinprecht would add his seventh goal of the season against the Sharks (22nd goal of the season) with eight minutes remaining in regulation to make things interesting.

Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala's workload was relatively light throughout the evening, but he was forced to step things up late as the Coyotes tried to make a late charge.

Recognizing the significance of the milestone, Thornton made sure it was something Cheechoo would remember.

"He dove into the net for it (the puck)," Cheechoo said. "It was pretty cool. We've just seemed to connect since he's gotten here. It was nice for him to get an assist on it, too."

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1 2 3 T
SJ 1 2 0 3
PHO 0 1 1 2
1st period - 1, San Jose, Ekman 18 (Carle, Cheechoo), 9:05.
2nd period - 2, Phoenix, Comrie 29 (Sanderson, Mara), 10:15. 3, San Jose, Cheechoo 50 (J.Thornton, Preissing), 11:47, (pp). 4, San Jose, Cheechoo 51 (J.Thornton, Marleau), 12:31, (pp).
3rd period - 5, Phoenix, Reinprecht 22 (Sjostrom, Ballard), 11:50.
1st period - Michalek, PHO (hooking), 6:59; Rivers, PHO (hooking), 6:59; Rivers, PHO (elbowing), 9:52; McLaren, SJS (holding), 10:06; McLaren, SJS (holding), 14:27.
2nd period - Goc, SJS (interference), 4:35; Rivers, PHO (hooking), 10:59; Ballard, PHO (delay of game), 11:32.
3rd period - Perrault, PHO (holding), 1:31; Saprykin, PHO (hooking), 3:48; S.Thornton, SJS (hooking), 12:15; Ehrhoff, SJS (holding), 18:36.
  Shots Saves
SJ - Toskala 25 23
PHO - LeNeveu 26 23
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 11 9 6 26
PHO 13 5 7 25
Power Play Conversion
SJ 2 of 7
PHO 0 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathan Cheechoo
Joe Thornton
Matt Carle
Referees: Brad Meier, Michael McGeough. Linesmen: Jay Sharrers, Andy McElman.

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