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Sloppy win almost ends streak
Isles rally late but fail to topple Sharks
1/3/09 - By Mike Lee

The Sharks returned home on Saturday night and turned a would-be blowout into a nail biter against the visiting New York Islanders. The Sharks staked themselves to a 4-1 lead, then allowed the Islanders to claw back to a one goal deficit with a minute to play. An empty-net goal would preserve a 5-3 San Jose win, but the Sharks would have preferred to take the sure win, as opposed to the wild finish variety.

The win did preserve San Jose 's streak of 21 games at HP Pavilion without a regulation loss. More importantly, the Sharks got lots of offense from their 3rd line, with Mike Grier scoring two goals and Jonathan Cheechoo adding 3 assists in the victory.

The Islanders battled back from a 4-1 deficit in Phoenix on Friday night, scoring 3 goals in the 3rd period. They would fall 5-4 to the Coyotes, but would also show a penchant for late comebacks.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan didn't mince words after the game.

"Our focus is going to be the lapses that got [the Islanders] back into the game," said McLellan. "It's unacceptable that we're up 4-1 with three minutes left in the game and on the power play, and give them a short-handed goal. We have a lot of learning to do as a hockey club, learning how to win. That's one situation. We have an empty net with ten seconds left in the game, we've got the puck at the hash marks, and we try to pass it. That's unacceptable. We have to learn how to win. And, it's been creeping into our game a little bit, something we have to work on."

It was hard to tell who the losing coach was following the game. Islanders head coach Scott Gordon was a bit more upbeat.

"There is no shame in losing to that team," Gordon said. "They're big, they're strong, they're fast, they control the puck, they protect the puck, and they are very hard to get the puck from."

Ryane Clowe kicked off the goal fest with a rocket from the slot, midway through the opening period. Milan Michalek setup the goal with a feed from the right side. Clowe pumped the one timer past Islanders goaltender Joey MacDonald.

Things got testy two minutes later when Islanders defenseman Mark Streit threw an elbow that caught Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in the chops. Ehrhoff took exception to the wayward limb and responded with a punch to the back of Streit's head. Doug Weight jumped into the mix by cross checking Ehrhoff, then dropping the gloves.

San Jose would go on the power play, but Devin Setoguchi tripped up Brendan Witt in the Islanders zone to nullify the advantage.

Mike Grier made it 2-0 with 21 seconds remaining in the period on a wrap around attempt that deflected off the skate of Islanders left wing Blake Comeau. MacDonald appeared to make the save along the left post, but the puck skittered across the crease before being helped in by Comeau.

Grier's goal was almost answer moments later, when Sean Bergenheim took a breakaway attempt all the way to the net with 1.3 left in the period, but Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov stoned the Islanders left winger.

Both teams traded minors early in the 2nd period, but the Sharks used the open ice to capitalize. Dan Boyle took a Jonathan Cheechoo feed near the top of the right circle, before skating in and roofing a shot past MacDonald for the 3-0 San Jose lead. Boyle used a big screen from Joe Thornton in front of the net to net his 12th goal of the season.

Richard Park cut the Sharks lead to two goals with his 10th of the season at 16:04 of the period. Park raced in on net from the left wing and chipped a shot that hit Nabokov's stick and launched into the air. Park reached back after skating past the left post and swatted the puck into net.

. Nabokov preserved the Sharks cushion with just over a minute left in the period, by diving to his right and stopping a shot from Weight with his paddle.

Grier made it 4-1 at 12:22 of the 3rd period on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Cheechoo. Rob Blake dropped the puck to Cheechoo just inside the Islanders blueline, before the Sharks forward faked a shot that slid a 40-foot pass through the slot to Grier on the off wing.

A high sticking penalty to Witt with just under 5 minutes to play turned out wrong for the Sharks, when Tim Jackman blew past Christian Ehrhoff and snapped a shot past Nabokov to make it 4-2.

New York scored an improbable goal when Thomas Pock threw the puck on net from the left point that hit Joe Paveski in the glove, then appeared to be redirected by an Islanders stick.

"It's a tough task," said Gordon. "That's a model that we would like to follow on what they built here, and the quality of the team they are."

The Islanders would pull MacDonald for the extra skater, but the Sharks would seal the game with an empty netter by Patrick Marleau with 9 seconds left in regulation.

"Every night's an opportunity," added a perturbed McLellan. "We talked about it earlier in the year. The schedule was kind to us. We played a lot at home; now, we've got to go and make up those games. A trip to Canada isn't easy, but maybe that's what we need right now. Going into Calgary, they're going to be a very hungry team. They're going to want to show us what they're about; they've been a very successful team lately. You follow that up with a trip to Edmonton and Vancouver, and not a single night's easy. If we put together a so-so effort, we won't come away with what we want to do."

Game Notes:

Douglas Murray and Jody Shelley missed the game with injuries. Alexei Semenov replaced Shelley on the Sharks 4th line, playing forward. He also assumed the role of enforcer for a game, dropping the gloves with Tim Jackman 6 minutes into the game. Derek Joslin made his NHL debut for San Jose .


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
NYI 0 1 2 3
SJ 2 1 2 5
1st period - 1, SJ, Clowe 16 (Michalek, Ehrhoff), 11:20. 2, SJ, Grier 6 (Goc, Cheechoo), 19:39.
2nd period - 3, SJ, Boyle 12 (Cheechoo, Thornton), 7:51. 4, NYI, Park 10 (Streit, Hunter), 16:04.
3rd period - 5, SJ, Grier 7 (Cheechoo, Blake), 12:22. 6, NYI, Jackman 2 (Park), 16:50, (sh). 7, NYI, Pock 1 (Hunter, Park), 18:57. 8, SJ, Marleau 19 (Thornton, Plihal), 19:50, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Jackman, NYI (fighting major), 6:10; Semenov, SJ (fighting major), 6:10; Streit, NYI (elbowing), 13:26; Weight, NYI (cross checking), 13:26; Weight, NYI (fighting major), 13:26; Ehrhoff, SJ (roughing), 13:26; Ehrhoff, SJ (fighting major), 13:26; Setoguchi, SJ (tripping), 13:50.
2nd period - Comrie, NYI (cross checking), 5:55; Ehrhoff, SJ (hooking), 7:12.
3rd period - Jackman, NYI (roughing), 7:12; Joslin, SJ (roughing), 7:12; Comrie, NYI (tripping), 7:53; Witt, NYI (high sticking), 15:11.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
NYI - MacDonald 46 42
NYI - empty net 1 0
SJ - Nabokov 24 21
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
NYI 4 12 8 24
SJ 16 19 12 47
Power Play Conversion
NYI 0 of 2
SJ 0 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Mike Grier
Jonathan Cheechoo
Joey MacDonald
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Leggo, VanMassenhoven. Linesmen: Racicot, Henderson.

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