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Sharks not good enough, trail 2-0
Nabokov continues to struggle in 4-2 loss
5/18/10 - By Mike Lee -

The bell may have tolled on the Sharks season on Tuesday night. Only two games into the Western Conference Finals, San Jose had little answer for a faster Chicago Blackhawks team that capitalized on most of their chances. Poor goaltending continued to cost the Sharks, who allowed Chicago to take a two-game lead with a 4-2 win at HP Pavilion. Evgeni Nabokov allowed he Blackhawks to jump out to an early lead on a weak goal, then couldn’t make the big saves when it counted.

San Jose came out with plenty of energy and got pucks on net early, but when Chicago scored the game’s first goal, it took the life out of the bench and the arena. They would fail to respond and score the equalizer, which allowed the Blackhawks to build on their lead.

“Obviously our execution has to be better. Up until they scored, we handled the puck well," siad Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We carried the puck well in the neutral zone against a very good team. And then that goal took a lot out of us for some reason. It’s disappointing because we have had that resiliency and it took us a while to get that energy level back up where it needed to be.”

Niemi picked up where he left off in Game 1 with a huge save 6 minutes into the game, stoning Devin Setoguchi with a pad save on a point-blank shot. The Sharks were buzzing in the Blackhawks zone when Logan Couture sent in a shot from the left corner. Niemi deflected the puck to the top of the crease where Setoguchi was parked.

Heatley followed it up with a shot from the slot a minute later that was turned aside by Niemi.

San Jose looked as if they would create a nice scoring chance when Patrick Marleau checked defenseman Brent Seabrook off the puck at the Sharks blueline. The Sharks appeared to be headed to a 2-on-0 break, but Seabrook regained his feet and got back to the puck.

Chicago would turn around and gain the zone, which allowed Andrew Ladd to uncork a 45-foot shot that beat Evgeni Nabokov for the early 1-0 Chicago lead. Nabokov was cheating to his right and was partially screened by his own defenseman, but he waved at it with his glove and missed.

“We haven’t had an opportunity to score very many (first goals of the game)," added McLellan. "Going into their building, we saw what the first goal did to our hockey club tonight. It took some of the energy out of the building; it took a lot of energy out of our team and it took us a while to get our heads up again.”

San Jose would have difficulties even getting the puck in the Chicago zone early in the middle period. The Blackhawks would continue to use their team speed to keep the San Jose offense from getting the puck anywhere near Niemi.

“I thought we withstood another barrage in the first ten minutes," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quennevillle. "Antti was rock solid again. They crashed the net well and he preserved the second opportunities for us. I think scoring first certainly helped us to finish the period on a better note.”

They would wait out San Jose , then strike at 6:59 of the period on a deflection by Dustin Byfuglien. Patrick Kane would circle out to the high slot, before throwing a puck on net, where Byfuglien was parked. The Blackhawks forward simply tipped the puck past Nabokov.

Chicago baited the Sharks into taking a penalty 40 seconds later by stabbing a puck under Nabokov following a stoppage. Douglas Murray would take exception and draw a roughing penalty.

The Blackhawks would make the Sharks pay for Murray’s indiscretion a minute into the ensuing power play. Much like Byfuglien’s goal theBlackhawks converted on another deflection by putting bodies in front of the net. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews chipped the puck to Nabokov’s right for the 3-0 lead.

The Sharks would get their first crack on the power play at 10:06, when centerman Dave Bolland was called for holding. Patrick Marleau would snap a cross –ice pass from Joe Thornton past Niemi from the right circle.

San Jose would turn up the heat to close out the period, but nothing challenged Niemi, allowing the Blackhawks to take a two-goal lead into the 2nd intermission.

Niemi had a little luck on his side to start the 3rd period. Sharks defenseman Rob Blake threw a puck on net from the right point, hitting Seabrook in the hand and deflecting it toward the Blackhawks net. The puck would hit just under the knob of Niemi’s stick, chipping it safely away from his goal.

As has been the case all series, the failure by the Sharks to capitalize on their opportunities would be immediately followed by a Chicago goal. Niklas Hjalmarsson would step into a dump pass by Marion Hossa and beat Nabokov at 6:18. It was another case of Nabokov missing on a long shot. Hossa created the chance by picking Murray's pocket in the left corner, before sliding the pass to Hjalmarsson near the blueline.

"I didn't think we gave them too much to be honest with you," said Thornton. "We played good defensive hockey. We're just not capitalizing on our chances. They with theirs and we're not with ours."

Thornton would put the Blackhawks on the power play with a ridiculous slashing penalty. The centerman slashed Bolland while the two were lined up for a faceoff, before the puck was even dropped.

Marleau would score his second goal of the night with 4:28 to play on a deflection in front of Niemi. Dany Heatley created the opportunity by driving to the net on a delayed penalty call and jamming a shot on net. Niemi would make the save, but it landed in the crease where Marleau stabbed at it from the weak side.

Rob Blake would take a holding penalty with 2:06 left in regulation to ice the game.

“We’ve been pretty consistent on the road," said Quenneville. "I like our approach and I think our focus is in the right area. The guys are sticking together off the ice and they come prepared for games and playing a simpler game than we’ve probably seen at home. I think we want to make sure that we duplicate the way we’ve played here on the road and we think that’s the recipe for being successful.”


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
CHI 1 2 1 4
SJ 0 1 1 2
1st period - 1, CHI, Ladd 2 (Keith, Versteeg), 12:48.
2nd period - 2, CHI, Byfuglien 6 (Kane, Toews), 6:59. 3, CHI, Toews 7 (Keith, Kane), 8:29, (pp). 4, SJ, Marleau 4 (Thornton, Boyle), 11:08, (pp).
3rd period - 5, CHI, Hjalmarsson 2 (Hossa), 6:18. 6, SJ, Marleau 5 (Heatley, Boyle), 15:32.
Penalties
1st period - Wallin, SJ (hooking), 13:13.
2nd period - Murray , SJ (roughing), 7:36; Bolland, CHI (holding), 10:06.
3rd period - Thornton , SJ (slashing), 8:14; Blake, SJ (holding), 17:54; Seabrook, CHI (roughing), 19:42; Ladd, CHI (roughing), 19:42; Heatley, SJ (roughing), 19:42; Clowe, SJ (roughing), 19:42; Clowe, SJ (10 minute misconduct), 19:42.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
CHI - Niemi 27 25
SJ - Nabokov 22 18
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
CHI 9 9 4 22
SJ 11 9 7 27
Power Play Conversion
CHI 1 of 4
SJ 1 of 1
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathan Toews
Patrick Marleau
Duncan Keith
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Walkom, Sutherland. Linesmen: Murphy, Morin.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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