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Youth show inexperience in loss
Avalanche busts through for 5 goals
12/7/06 - by Mike Lee

The biggest question mark entering this season for the Sharks was how their young defensive corps would handle the rigors of the NHL. Thursday night's affair with the Colorado Avalanche was not one of their shining moments this season. With Kyle McLaren on the shelf with a lower body injury, San Jose's defense failed to control much of anything en route to a 5-2 loss at HP Pavilion.

Returning home after a successful 3-1 road trip, the Sharks fell flat to the visiting Avalanche. Joe Sakic and Brett Clark scored a pair of goals each to power Colorado past their lethargic hosts.

"I've seen this before," Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said. "Your first game back after a fairly successful road trip, and your guys aren't ready to play. We were just completely out of sync. That was obvious."

The horrors on the blueline weren't contained to a single defenseman. Matt Carle got caught on a rookie mistake that resulted in a 2-on-1 break that netted Brett McLean a goal, Scott Hannan was on the ice for 4 of Colorado goals (-3), and Marc-Edouard Vlassic played spectator to a trio of tallies.

San Jose offense wasn't much better, netting a power play goal midway through the 1st period and a goal on a lucky bounce in the 2nd. San Jose was shutout on Monday in Dallas, and failed to generate many scoring chances in their first game at home in almost two weeks. After that it was all Avalanche.

Clark opened the game's scoring 11:10 into the contest with his 1st of the evening on a 30-foot slapshot that beat Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala.

Cheechoo would respond with a power play goal two minutes later after Joe Thornton set him up with a nifty pass from the low slot. Thornton stick-handled in on a goal from the right corner, before sliding a backhand pass to Cheechoo in the slot for the one-timer past Jose Theodore.

Sakic would put the Avalanche up 2-1 4 minutes into the 2nd period by grabbing a loose puck from under Toskala's pad and depositing his 10th of the season while standing in the crease. John-Michael Liles started the strange sequence by firing a shot from the point. The puck bounced pin-balled off two Sharks in front of the net before landing in the crease. Toskala tried to dive for it, but it slid around the crease before landing on Sakic's stick.

"We needed this one," Sakic said. "We didn't play very well the other night, and I thought right from the get-go, guys were hungry, were strong on the puck. You really have to be against that team, because they've got a great hockey club over there. We seemed to get the jump on them."

The Sharks would tie the game again on a fluke chance that Thornton would bury. A dump-in pass by Rob Davison took an awkward carom off the end boards, trickling out to Thornton, who was breaking from the blueline. The Sharks centerman scooped up the loose puck and roofed a wrist shot over Theodore's left shoulder.

The wheels would fall off for San Jose at that point. McLean would snap a shot past Toskala after Carle overskated the play at center ice. With a teammate on his left wing, McLean had Toskala dead to rights, burying his 5th of the season.

"I don't think we were bearing down on the offensive side, and we were giving up a lot of odd-man rushes," Thornton said. "A lot of guys didn't bring their 'A' game."

San Jose missed on a golden opportunity to re-tie the game 46 seconds later when Ken Klee hauled down Sharks forward Mike Grier. Grier was awarded a penalty shot on the play, but his 1-on-1 attempt was rejected by Theodore.

Clark would bag his second of the night with less than a minute remaining in the period to extend Colorado's lead to a pair of goals.

Sakic would end any thoughts of a heroic comeback by San Jose when he converted a power play chance just 4 seconds after Christian Ehrhoff was whistled for holding. Sakic won the faceoff in the Sharks zone, drawing the puck back to Patrice Brisebois. The Avalance captain then circled around to the opposite circle, before backhanding a rebound after Toskala failed to control Brisebois' shot from the left point.

"We knew we had to come out with an intense effort against these guys," Clark said. "It's a very nice feeling for me, but I owe a lot to those players out there with me."

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1 2 3 T
COL 1 3 1 5
SJ 1 1 0 2
1st period - 1, COL, Clark 2 (Sakic, Wolski), 11:10. 2, SJ Cheechoo 8 (Thornton, Michalek), 13:39, (pp).
2nd period - 3, COL, Sakic 10 (Liles), 4:07. 4, SJ, Thornton 8 (Davison, Vlasic), 7:57. 5, COL, McLean 5 (Arnason, Clark), 14:02. SJ, Grier (Unsuccessful penalty shot), 14:48. 6, COL, Clark 3 (Wolski, Brunnette), 19:06.
3rd period - 7, COL, Sakic 11 (Brisebois), 7:34, (pp).
1st period - Sakic, COL (hooking), 5:00; Cheechoo, SJ (interfernece), 5:35; Leopold, COL (delay of game, puck over glass), 8:49; Turgeon, COL (tripping), 12:21; BRisebois, COL (hooking), 14:51; Bernier, SJ (boarding), 16:38; Brown, SJ (hooking), 19:36.
2nd period - Svatos, COL (interference), 1:12; Brown, SJ (hooking), 4:09; Carle, SJ (hooking), 8:11.
3rd period - Brunette, COL (hooking), 0:27; Clark, COL (high sticking), 1:35; Ehrhoff, SJ (holding), 7:30; Team, SJ (too many men), 19:09.
  Shots Saves
COL - Theodore 30 28
SJ - Toskala 25 20
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
COL 7 9 9 25
SJ 10 7 13 30
Power Play Conversion
COL 1 of 7
SJ 1 of 7
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Sakic
Brett Clark
Wojtek Wolski
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Brad Watson. Linesmen: Brad Lazarowich, Thor Nelson.

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