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Sharks flex some muscle in Game 3
Marleau scores a pair in win
4/25/06 - by Mike Lee

Anyone remember that guy Patrick Marleau? He's the Sharks centerman who also doubles as team captain. Amid all the hype Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo have created this season, it's easy to forget about the guy who led the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. Marleau provided a timely reminder on Tuesday night as the Sharks rolled the visiting Nashville Predators 4-1 in Game 3 of their Wester Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

Marleau scored a pair of goals to lead the Sharks to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. San Jose need more than half the game to kick start their offense, but once Marleau broke the ice midway through the 2nd period, the flood gates opened.

Nashville managed to keep the Sharks in check the entire 1st period, even though San Jose outshot the Predators 14-5. A quick tempo was the order of the day after the opening faceoff, but San Jose couldn't get the bounce they needed to solve Chris Mason early.

Nashville even managed to score the game's first goal on a short-handed chance 6:33 into the contest. Cheechoo failed to control a pass while the Sharks were setting up in Nashville's zone, which allowed three Predators to spring up the ice with the puck. Greg Johnson would carry it up ice, before sending a pass across the slot to Kimo Timonen on the left post. Timonen one timed the pass passed a screened Vesa Toskala for the only lead Nashville would have all night.

As was the case the period before, San Jose continued to dictate the flow of the game, and controlled the puck for extended stretches which prevented Nashville from generating any kind of offense. Marleau would finally break through with a bullet that beat Mason from the left wing boards at 12:10 of the 2nd period.

Nashville would start a parade to the penalty box, which included a Mark Eaton tripping penalty with just over three minutes to play in the middle period. The Predators would pay dearly for that mistake, when Bernier bagged his first career playoff goal on the ensuing power play. Christian Ehrhoff, who had three assists on the evening, setup the goal with a shot that Mason failed to control.

Bernier had little to do except grab the rebound and, sidestep a fallen Mason and deposit the puck into the goal for the 2-1 lead.

The Sharks seemed to toy with the Predators in the 3rd period. Only down a single goal, Nashville could have made the evening a very frustrating one for the Sharks had they mustered any offense, but even two power play chances early in the period did little to help revive the Predators offense.

Cheechoo put the game out of reach with his second goal of the playoffs at 15:38, with a blast from the blueline that found a seem between Mason's pads.. It broke Nashville's back because it was a reasonably easy shot to defend, but Mason was partially screened by one of his on defenders and the blast was by him in a heartbeat.

Marleau book-ended his evening with a quirky goal late in the contest. The Sharks captain flubbed a simple dump-in attempt, misfiring as he tried to get around Dan Hamhuis just inside the Predators blueline. Rather than reaching the end boards, the puck dribbled off Marleau's stick just past Hamhuis. With an extra step, Marleau coasted around the Predators defender, regained control of the puck then beat Mason with a move to his left before sliding the puck into an empty net.

Toskala finished with 16 saves, recording his second consecutive playoff victory. One of the those saves came on a 2nd period breakaway that would have put the Predators back on top 2-1. The Sharks goaltender waited patiently for the 2-on-1 to evolve, then deftly slid to his left to stuff a cross-ice one-timer with his pad pinching off anything inside the right post.

Joe Thornton was kept off the score sheet, but his presence was certainly felt. He beat Johnson on a partial breakaway in the 3rd period, drawing a hooking penalty, then he deeked Hamhuis with a wicked move at the blueline to setup another scoring attempt. He also drew a drew a tripping penalty on Eaton after the Predators defenseman got tired of Thornton sitting behind the Nashvile net with the puck.

Trotz will have to come up with a few more excuses if the Sharks take Game 4 on Thursday. His on-ice adjustments certainly did nothing to contain the Sharks centerman. And while they continue to focus all their attention on guys like Thornton, then other guys like Marleau will continue to feast on scoring opportunities.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
NAS 1 0 0 1
SJ 0 2 2 4
1st period - 1, Nashville, Timonen 1 (Johnson)(sh), 6:33.
2nd period - 2, San Jose, Marleau 2 (Ehrhoff), 12:10. 3, San Jose, Bernier 1 (Ehrhoff, Preissing), 18:48, (pp).
3rd period - 4, San Jose, Cheechoo 2 (Ehrhoff, Preissing), 15:38. 5, San Jose, Marleau 3 (Michalek, McLaren), 16:45.
Penalties
1st period - Nieminen, SJS (boarding), 3:14; Eaton, NAS (hooking), 6:00; Timonen, NAS (holding), 7:36; Legwand, NAS (hooking), 14:32.
2nd period - McLaren, SJS (tripping), 10:04; Nichol, NAS (hooking), 12:55; Eaton, NAS (tripping), 16:58.
3rd period - Ehrhoff, SJS (holding), 2:28; Cheechoo, SJS (delay of game), 4:58; Johnson, NAS (hooking), 9:23; Hamhuis, NAS (slashing), 13:28; Weber, NAS (cross-checking), 18:24; Smithson, NAS (slashing), 19:06; Walker, NAS (roughing), 20:00; Smith, SJS (roughing), 20:00.
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
NAS - Mason 40 36
SJ - Toskala 17 16
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
NAS 5 8 4 17
SJ 14 11 15 40
Power Play Conversion
NAS 0 of 4
SJ 1 of 9
3 Stars of the Game
Patrick Marleau
Christian Ehrhoff
Ville Nieminen
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Don Koharski. Linesmen: Dan Schachte, Mark Wheler.

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