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Cheechoo's hat trick plucks Thrashers
Sharks score 5 unanswered goals in mauling
3/22/07 - by Mike Lee

The Atlanta Thrashers home winning streak was abruptly ended on Thursday night, as the Sharks steam-rolled the host team 5-1 in a statement game at Philips Arena. Jonathan Cheechoo recorded his 7th career hat-trick and Joe Thornton added 3 assists to lead San Jose to their second consecutive road win. Vesa Toskala turned aside 18 shots to earn the victory.

More importantly, the win gives the Sharks 96 points in the standings, just 2 shy of the Pacific Division lead, currently held by Anaheim. The Ducks had a 10 point lead over the Sharks and Dallas Stars two weeks ago, but not find themselves looking over their shoulder at both of their surging division foes.

Cheechoo continued his late season hot streak with another scoring outburst. San Jose scored all 5 goals in the 1st two periods of the game, and coasted to their 46th win of the season.

After Pascal Dupuis staked the Thrashers to a 1-0 lead 8 minutes into the game, it was all San Jose. Dupuis fired a shot off a deflection from Bobby Holik past Toskala from the bottom of the right circle. The Sharks netminder couldn't plug the gap on the right side of the net after stopping a shot that kicked out to Dupuis on the right side.

Cheechoo scored his first goal at 13:10 on a sweet dish from Thornton after a clearing attempt from Eric Belanger hit a skate and rebounded back to the Sharks in the Atlanta zone. Thornton calmly headed toward Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen, then slid a pass across the top fo the crease to Cheechoo on the right post. Cheechoo easily buried the pass to knot the game at 1-1.

Milan Michalek added his 23rd goal of the season right before the 1st intermission with a put back on a deflection in front of the Thrashers net. Joe Thornton tried firing a shot past Lehtonen from the left circle, but his shot bounced off Cheechoo, who was parked in front of the Thrashers goaltender. Michalek skated in and punched home the puck, which kicked out into the slot.

Cheechoo would score his 2nd goal of the night on a weird sequence midway through the 2nd period. As Scott Mellanby tried carrying the puck into the Sharks zone, his linemate Brad Larsen tried taking the puck away, which resulted in a turnover in front of the Sharks blueline. Michalek grabbed the puck, then fed it to Thornton on the left wing. Thornton tried uncorking a shot that Lehtonen stopped, but the puck bounced off Cheechoo's skate as it sat perched on the doorstep. Game officials ruled that Cheechoo did not intentionally kick the puck into the net, thereby awarding the Sharks with their 3rd goal of the game.

Bill Guerin would add more offensive fuel to the fire with a breakaway goal less than 3 minutes later. Mark Bell sent a pass up ice from the left wing boards deep within the Sharks zone to Guerin who was cutting across the Thrashers blueline. The Sharks forward slipped past two Atlanta defenders and controlled the bouncing puck before beating Lehtonen.

Hartley had seen enough at this point, pulling Lehtonen for former Sharks goaltender Johan Hedberg.

Cheechoo capped the scoring with just under 3 minutes remaining in the period with his 30th of the season. Thornton and Cheechoo combined for a 2-on-1 break, but Niklas Havelid poked the puck from Thornton back into the high slot. Christian Ehrhoff scooped up the deflected puck in the high slot then skated around Alexei Zhitnik before backhanding a pass to Thornton on the left post. Cheechoo one-timed the pass for the capper.


Mark Bell squared off with Thrashers left wing Jon Sim early in the 2nd period. Sim injured his orbital bone in the scrap and did not return.

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1 2 3 T
SJ 2 3 0 5
ATL 1 0 0 1
1st period - 1, ATL, Dupuis 13 (Holik, Slater), 7:53. 2, SJ, Cheechoo 28 (Thornton, Michalek), 13:10. 3, SJ, Michalek 23 (Cheechoo, Thornton), 19:02.
2nd period - 4, SJ, Cheechoo 29 (Thornton, Michalek), 11:56. 5, SJ, Guerin 34 (Bell, Marleau), 14:29. 6, SJ, Cheechoo 30 (Ehrhoff), 17:14.
3rd period - None.
1st period - None.
2nd period - Bell, SJ (fighting major), 14:35; Sim, ATL (fighting major), 14:35.
3rd period - Michalk, SJ (high sticking), 14:57; Hedberg, ATL (delay of game - puck over glass), 17:42.
  Shots Saves
SJ - Nabokov 19 18
ATL - Lehtonen 9 8
ATL - Hedberg 23 19
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 12 13 7 32
ATL 6 5 8 19
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 1
ATL 0 of 1
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathan Cheechoo
Joe Thornton
Milan Michalek
Referees: Kerry Fraser, Chris Lee. Linesmen: Pierre Champoux, Michel Cormier.

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