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Sharks take round 2
Late Thornton goal beats Ducks
12/16/06 - by Mike Lee

It wasn't the game of the century, but Saturday night's division showdown between the Sharks and Anaheim Ducks was one of the bigger games of season. With both teams vying for Western Conference supremacy, the match up was certainly the biggest thing on the NHL docket. In the end it turned out to be one of the most entertaining game's between the two Pacific Division teams.

Joe Thornton made it a party for the sellout crowd at HP Pavilion, bagging the game winner with 2:13 left in regulation on a bank shot off the shin of Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer. San Jose overcame a 3-2 Anaheim lead in the final period to avenge a 5-0 loss to the Ducks back on November 21st.

"All 20 guys played great," Thornton said. "It was such a big game, and even the fans were a part of it. For Game 34 (of the season), it was incredible. Both teams were up for it. It's going to be a big game whenever we meet each other."

Anaheim jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a Ryan Getzlaf power play goal at 17:01 of the opening period and an even strength tally by Corey Perry 3:39 into the middle period. San Jose battled back to tie the game before the contest's midway point.

Sharks forward Mark Bell tried to rally the troops by dropping the gloves with Shane O'Brien to open the 2nd period.

Patrick Marleau cut the Ducks lead in half with his 15th goal of the season on a one-timer in front of the Anaheim net after Joe Pavelski set thing sup with a centering pass from the left wing boards.

"It was one of our better all-around games of the year," defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "We know they're a good team, and we don't feel like we have to prove to them that we are."

Mark Smith would convert on the power play less than three minutes later after Andy McDonald was sent off for hooking. Smith was circling in the slot when a shot by Thornton trickled through the crease, bouncing off a skate and redirecting to the Sharks winger. Smith buried the opportunity, pumping the puck into the Ducks net from 15 feet out.

The Ducks would parlay a series of bad calls by converting on a power play themselves midway through the 3rd period after Marleau was whistled for a questionable hooking penalty at 10:24. Dustin Penner scored on the ensuing power play after Getzlaf and Perry set things up with a series of passes through the slot. Marcel Goc missed on a chance to steal the puck and take it up ice uncontested before Francois Beauchemin chipped the puck to Getzlaf.

Jonathan Cheechoo countered Penner's goal with his 11th of the season 31 seconds later. Cheechoo positioned himself on the Ducks doorstep in an attempt to screen Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but found himself with a stick full of puck after Matt Carle bounced a shot off Giguere. The reigning NHL goal-scoring champ calmly slid the puck around Giguere with a backhand move while facing away from the goal.

Things took a precarious turn for the Sharks when Scott Hannan was sent off for interference with 4:28 to play, but the Sharks killed the threat with a Johnny-on-the-spot play by Mike Grier. Grier intercepted a pass at center ice, and skated in on Giguere with 30 seconds remaining on the Hannan penalty. Chris Kunitz was forced to take Grier down in order to thwart the breakaway, drawing his own penalty.

San Jose would cap the comeback with Thornton's 9th goal of the season after taking a feed from Marleau along the right wing boards. Thornton skated toward the goal before sending the shot on net. Niedermayer was tied up with Cheechoo in front of the net and Thornton's shot appeared to be offline, but the deflection found a seem through Giguere.

"We knew these are going to be tough games, and it was an intense game out there," Niedermayer said. "That's just a good hockey game. We expected it."

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1 2 3 T
ANA 1 1 1 3
SJ 0 2 2 4
1st period - 1, ANA, Getzlaf 15 (McDonald, Pronger), 17:01, (pp).
2nd period - 2, ANA, Perry 8 (Shannon, O'Donnell), 3:39. 3, SJ, Marleau 15 (Pavelski), 6:19. 4, SJ, Smith 2 (Thornton, Pavelski), 9:08, (pp).
3rd period - 5, ANA, Penner 13 (Perry, Getzlaf), 12:15, (pp). 6, SJ, Cheechoo 11 (Carle, Michalek), 12:46. 7, SJ, THornton 9 (Marleau, Ehrhoff), 17:47, (pp).
1st period - Michalek, SJ (tripping), 2:52; Moen, ANA (tripping), 10:42; Ehrhoff, SJ (hooking), 15:14; Selanne, ANA (high sticking), 14:47; Pavelsk, SJ (hooking), 15:56; Beauchemin, ANA (hooking), 17:52.
2nd period - O'Brienm ANA (fighting - major), 4:48; Bell, SJ (fighting - major), 4:48; McDonald, ANA (hooking), 7:42; Dipenta, ANA (hooking), 10:22; Vlassic, SJ (tripping), 15:20; Pronger, ANA (hooking), 16:27; Team, SJ (too many men), 17:31; Selanne, ANA (roughing), 17:47; Thornton, SJ (roughing), 17:47.
3rd period - Marleau, SJ (hooking), 10:24; Hannan, SJ (interference), 14:32; Kunitz, ANA (holding), 16:05.
  Shots Saves
ANA - Giguere 29 25
SJ - Nabokov 35 32
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
ANA 11 11 13 35
SJ 11 12 6 29
Power Play Conversion
ANA 2 of 7
SJ 2 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathen Cheechoo
Joe Thornton
Ryan Getzlaf
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Tom Kowal. Linesmen: Brian Mach, Lyle Seitz.

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