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Cujo peppered in blowout
Sharks win 4-0
12/11/06 - by Mike Lee

Winning division games is the key to making a playoff appearance in the wild Pacific Division. The Sharks kicked off a 10-game stretch to close out December, which will match them up with division opponents in nine of those games. Monday nights 4-0 blowout of the visiting Phoenix Coyotes was a step in the right direction, as four different San Jose forwards scored goals and Vesa Toskala recorded his 7th career shutout.

Phoenix kept the game close for 35 minutes, even though they faced a barrage of shots in the opening period. Had it not been for netminder Curtis Joseph, the Coyotes might have been buried after facing 22 shots before the first intermission.

Milan Michalek converted on a 5-on-3 power play with 1:29 remaining in the opening stanza, scoring on the Sharks last shot of the period. San Jose had a similar two-man situation earlier in the period but failed to get the puck past Joseph. Michalek one-timed a Joe Thornton pass from behind the Coyotes goal to finally break the ice.

Mike Comrie had a chance to tie the game on a golden opportunity in close, but Toskala stopped the Phoenix forward shot with an outstretched paddle, after diving across the crease.

"The save Vesa made on Comrie midway through the second period was huge," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "That would have given them some life and tied the game."

Phoenix buckled down on the shot count in the middle period, but allowed the Sharks to score twice. Steve Bernier used a screen by Michalek to score his 9th goal of the season after the Sharks raced up ice on a 4-on-2 break. Three Coyotes were caught behind the Sharks net, including former San Jose captain Owen Nolan who tried sliding a pass into the slot.

Current captain Patrick Marleau skated the puck up the ice before slamming on the breaks and feeding Bernier just inside the Coyotes left circle. Bernier cut back toward the net, before lifting a 25-foot shot just inside the right post.

Joseph argued that he was interfered by Michalek, who crashed the net as Bernier uncorked his shot. No penalty was called on Michalek, allowing the goal to stand. Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky was incensed by a similar play moments later, when Shane Doan was sent to the box for running into Toskala.

The Sharks converted on one of nine power play opportunities with Doan in the box when Joe Pavelski redirected a Joe Thornton shot over Joseph's left shoulder. Pavelski was parked outside the right post as Thornton one-timed a pass Marleau pass from his usual position near the bottom of the right circle.

"We had all kinds of chances and Cujo made some great saves," Pavelski said, referring to Joseph. "We were crashing the net and he kept saving them until it finally opened up."

Phoenix tried to muster some fight in the 3rd period, out-shooting the Sharks 9-4 in the period, but Curtis Joseph put the game out of reach with another shot over Joseph's shoulder. Brown skated the puck out from behind the net, before spinning and firing the puck on net while Derek Morris partially screened Joseph. Thornton assisted on the goal, giving him his second consecutive three point game.

"Cujo was keeping them in it," Brown said. "When goalies come up big like that, you can get frustrated. We didn't get frustrated and kept our feet moving."

Things got testy late in the game after Mark Bell lit up Comrie deep in the Phoenix zone as the Coyotes forward sent a pass up ice. Irritated by the hit, Comrie went after the first Sharks player he could line up, hitting defenseman Rob Davision below the waist with an awkward check. Bell immediately went after Comrie, before a series of scrums broke out. Davision locked up with Dave Scatchard in a heated exchange of fists.

"We just weren't ready to play," Gretzky said. "You can't take six penalties in a period and expect to win. We're being selfish out there and that's what is causing the penalties."

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1 2 3 T
PHO 0 0 0 0
SJ 1 2 1 4
1st period - 1, SJ, Michalek 10 (Thonrton, Marleau), 18:31, (pp).
2nd period - 2, SJ, Bernier 9 (Marleau, Michalek), 15:31. 3, SJ, Pavelsk 5 (Thornton, Marleau), 17:41, (pp).
3rd period - 4, SJ, Brown 6 (Thornton), 4:19.
1st period - Ballard, PHO (hooking), 5:28; Sparykin, PHO (high sticking), 10:20; Ballard, PHO (hooking), 10:39; Bell, SJ (slashing), 13:21; Brown, SJ (hooking), 14:11; Roenick, PHO (high sticking - double minor), 15:34; Michalek, PHO (hooking), 17:18.
2nd period - Bernier, SJ (boarding), 1:24; Michalek, PHO (tripping), 7:14; Doan, PHO (goaltender interference), 16:09.
3rd period - Team, SJ (too many men), 13:34; Murray, SJ (hooking), 16:09; Comrie, PHO (tripping), 18:42; Scatchard, PHO (fighting major), 18:42; Jovanovski, PHO (roughing), 18:42; Davison, SJ (fighting major), 18:42; Bell, SJ (roughing), 18:42; Goc, SJ (interference), 19:55.
  Shots Saves
PHO - Joseph 34 30
SJ - Toskala 23 23
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
PHO 6 8 9 23
SJ 22 8 4 34
Power Play Conversion
PHO 0 of 5
SJ 2 of 9
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Thornton
Patrick Marleau
Vesa Toskala
Referees: Gord Dwyer, Bill McCreary. Linesmen: Shane Heyer, Jay Sharrers.

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