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Playoff spot secured
SJ forced to duel feisty Kings
3/27/07 - by Mike Lee

Playoff hockey will be returning to San Jose. That was guaranteed on Tuesday night, as the Sharks knocked off the visiting Los Angeles Kings 3-1 at HP Pavilion, thereby clinching a playoff spot. Patrick Marleau snapped an 8-game goal scoring drought with a pair of tallies to lead the Sharks to victory. Evgeni Nabokov allowed a lone power play goal on 25 shots to earn his 21st win of the season.

The Sharks started the evening in a festive mood, honoring head coach Ron Wilson for his 1000th coached game with a series of gifts before the opening face off to mark the occasion. Gifts included a silver hockey stick, framed score cards from his 1st and 1000th games, an inscribed magnum of wine and a golf outing at Pebble Beach, which President Greg Jamison indicated could only be redeemed in "late June."

Once the puck dropped, the Sharks appeared to be ready to pounce on the Kings, but they could only muster a lone goal through 2 periods.

Marleau opened things with his 31st goal of the season on the power play 8 minutes into the game after Brad Willsie was sent off for cross checking. Marleau took a feed from Christian Ehrhoff and pumped it past Kings goaltender Sean Burke from the point. Burke had to deal with traffic in front, but the shot sailed over his shoulder for the early Sharks lead.

The Sharks would throw 14 shots at Burke in that opening period, but the veteran netminder held hi ground for the remainder of the period. The Sharks took an unusual number of penalties throughout the night, including an ill-advised roughing penalty by Ryane Clowe right before the 1st intermission.

San Jose would commit three more penalties in through the first half of the second period, which prevented them from building any offensive momentum. Bill Guerin would commit an interference infraction that would inevitably bite the Sharks.

With Guerin the box, Willsie would knot the game at 1-1 with a shot from 25-feet after taking a feed from Patrick O'Sullivan on the power play. With O'Sullivan stick-handling down low in the right corner, Nabokov was forced to cover the post on the near side. Willsie was cutting in on the slot, which allowed him to deposit a hard slap shot just inside the left post for the equalizer.

The Kings provided the Sharks with 1 of 4 power play chances early in the 3rd period when Joe Piskula was sent off for hooking at 2:59, but Milan Michalek was whistled for interference for running into a Kings player at center ice 15 second into the man advantage.

Skating 4-on-4, San Jose took advantage of a Kings mistake in their own zone to jump on top 2-1. Marleau picked up a loose puck on a bad exchange as the Kings tried to clear their own zone, feeding Michalek on the left wing. Spotting the turnover, Guerin stayed down low near the Kings net, which allowed for a 1-on-1 chance with Burke after Michalek slipped a pass to his linemate out in front of the Kings net.

Guerin calmly gathered the pass, then slid across the slot as Burke committed himself. There was nothing left for Guerin to do, but lift the puck over the fallen Kings goaltender.

San Jose added some insurance a second shy of the midway mark of the period, when Marleau slipped past the Kings defense after Ehrhoff and Michalek forced a turnover in the Sharks zone. Marleau took Michalek's backhanded feed at the Kings blueline then raced in and beat Burke with his second goal of the game.

Los Angeles was given a glimmer of hope when Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet was assessed a 2-minute holding penalty with 125 ticks to play. Kings head coach Mark Crawford pulled Burke for the 2-man advantage, but Nabokov suppressed the Kings charge.

Notes:

Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan was scratched in order to nurse a groin injury. Rob Davison returned to the lineup in Hannan's absence. Marcel Goc was also a healthy scratch.




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Scoring
1 2 3 T
LA 0 1 0 1
SJ 1 0 2 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Marleau 31 (Ehrhoff, Vlasic), 8:34, (pp).
2nd period - 2, LS, Willsie 11 (O'Sullivan, Heward), 12:27, (pp).
3rd period - 3, SJ, Guerin 36 (Ehrhoff, Marleau), 4:41. 4, SJ, Marleau 32 (Michalek, Ehrhoff), 9:59.
 
Penalties
1st period - Willsie, LA (cross checking), 8:02; Clowe, SJ (roughing), 18:44.
2nd period - Weaver, LA (tripping), 1:28; Brown, SJ (high sticking), 4:34; Zeiler, LA (roughing), 8:37; Bell, SJ (roughing), 8:37; Guerin, SJ (interference), 11:09; Zeiler, LA (hooking), 15:02.
3rd period - Piskula, LA (hooking), 2:59; Michalek, SJ (interference), 3:14; Rivet, SJ (holding), 17:55.
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
LA - Burke 26 23
SJ - Nabokov 25 24
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
LA 7 10 8 25
SJ 14 5 7 26
Power Play Conversion
LA 1 of 5
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Patrick Marleau
Christian Ehrhoff
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Rob Shick. Linesmen: Shane Heyer, Mark Wheler.

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