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Playoff bound!
5-4 OT thriller nets postseason
4/12/06 - by Mike Lee

If Joe Thornton doesn't win the Hart Trophy for league MVP, then there is something terribly wrong with the system. The centerman who was acquired from the Boston Bruins on November 30th didn't score a goal on Wednesday night, but his four assists may have single handedly won the game that put the Sharks into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thornton setup four different goal scorers, including Christian Ehrhoff, who bagged the game winner in overtime as the Sharks took the opening leg of a home-and-home series with the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 at GM Place in British Columbia.

The Sharks will be seeded no lower than 7th and are still mathematically able to advance as high as 4th, should they get some help from the teams ahead of them and win their remaining three games.

"We got in trouble early but we've done this all year long, we just come back and never give up," said Thornton. "If you told people three months ago this team was going to make the playoffs, they would have said 'no,' but we just have great character."

San Jose had every opportunity to roll over against the Canucks, who trailed the Sharks by four points entering play on Wednesday. The Sharks overcame a 2-0 deficit in the 1st period, then had to comeback in the 3rd period after falling behind by a goal. They persevered and learned a valuable lesson about the Canucks for their match up in San Jose on Thursday night…stay out of the penalty box.

Mattias Ohlund converted a man-advantage opportunity and Markus Naslund scored on a 5-on-3 power play by the midpoint of the opening period. Thornton would start wielding his magic with less than three minutes to play in that opening stanza. He kicked things off by firing a pass up the ice from the Sharks zone to Grant Stevenson who was cherry-picking at the Canucks blueline. Stevenson skated in on goaltender Alexander Auld uncontested before lifting the puck for the breakaway goal.

"We've been like umpteen points behind (in the standings) and caught people so two goals down in the first 10 minutes is not that big a hill to climb for us," Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said.

Thornton would setup Nils Ekman on a power play goal with a minute to play in the period. Thornton cycled to Ekman's position down low behind the right post. Ekman vacated the spot by sliding into the slot, where he took a pass from Thornton and one-timed it past Auld.

Milan Michalek gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead eight minute into the 2nd period on a nifty give-and-go sequence with Steve Bernier, but Daniel Sedin would knot the game at 3-3 with the Canucks third power-play goal of the game.

Vancouver would reclaim the lead at 6:14 of the 3rd period on a Bryan Allen redirect after Nolan Baumgartner rifled a shot from the top of the left circle.

San Jose had difficulties generating any scoring chances after Allen's goal, until Scott Hannan pumped a shot past Auld from the slot. Thornton setup the goal by carrying the puck from his own end, before circling around the Canucks goal and feeding Hannan from behind the net.

The Sharks would waste no time in the extra session. After Thornton won the faceoff to kickoff overtime, Tom Preissing gained the offensive zone before feeding the puck back to Thornton. Jumbo Joe would draw a defender away from the shooting lane between the goal and the right circle, then fed Ehrhoff who snapped a 30-foot shot over Auld's left shoulder.

"It was a special goal with playoff clinching," Ehrhoff said. "We had a rough start in the season and to come back is a very big accomplishment."

"We're urgent, they're desperate and urgent is a positive feeling and desperate is a negative feeling," Wilson said. "If we think we've achieved what we set out to, we haven't. We want to challenge for the Stanley Cup."

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1 2 3OT T
SJ 2 1 11 5
VAN 2 1 10 4
1st period - 1, Vancouver, Ohlund 13 (H.Sedin, D.Sedin), 6:25, (pp). 2, Vancouver, Naslund 31 (D.Sedin, Jovanovski), 10:44, (pp). 3, San Jose, Stevenson 10 (J.Thornton, Toskala), 17:21. 4, San Jose, Ekman 19 (J.Thornton, Hannan), 18:57, (pp).
2nd period - 5, San Jose, Michalek 17 (Bernier, Marleau), 7:52. 6, Vancouver, D.Sedin 22 (H.Sedin, Baumgartner), 13:22, (pp).
3rd period - 7, Vancouver, Allen 7 (Baumgartner), 6:14. 8, San Jose, Hannan 6 (J.Thornton, Preissing), 15:57.
Overtime - 9, San Jose, Ehrhoff 5 (J.Thornton, Preissing), 0:34.
1st period - Gorges, SJS (holding), 5:27; Nieminen, SJS (interference), 7:36; Hannan, SJS (delay of game), 9:36; Nieminen, SJS (hooking), 10:03; Bertuzzi, VAN (hooking), 18:25; Bouck, VAN (hooking), 19:22.
2nd period - Carle, SJS (delay of game), 13:15; Jovanovski, VAN (delay of game), 17:52.
3rd period - Penalties - Naslund, VAN (high-sticking), 3:36; Ohlund, VAN (hooking), 11:20; Cheechoo, SJS (goalie interference), 11:30.
Overtime - None.
  Shots Saves
SJ - Toskala 24 20
VAN - Auld 27 22
Shots On Goal
1 2 3OT T
SJ 10 8 81 27
VAN 6 9 90 24
Power Play Conversion
SJ 1 of 5
VAN 3 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Thornton
Daniel Sedin
Christian Ehrhoff
Referees: Bill McCreary, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen: Brad Lazarowich, Vaughan Rody.

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