Sharks Devour Panthers

The San Jose Sharks hit the five-goal plateau for a
franchise-record fourth straight contest Thursday night on the way
to a 6-2 decision over the Florida Panthers at HP Pavilion at San
San Jose – The San Jose Sharks hit the five-goal plateau for a franchise-record fourth straight contest Thursday night on the way to a 6-2 decision over the Florida Panthers at HP Pavilion at San Jose.

The win, in front of a crowd of 16,007, allowed the Sharks (12-12-4) to move into a tie with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for fourth place in the bunched Pacific Division. San Jose is five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot owned by Colorado.

Patrick Marleau went for three points for a fourth consecutive game and new teammate Joe Thornton added two assists to move into a tie for third place (41 points) among NHL scorers.

San Jose emerged from the first period with just five shots on net and a 1-1 tie. The Sharks followed with four unanswered goals in the second period and went into the second intermission with a 5-2 cushion.

Mark Smith entered the game with three goals for the Sharks. The center tallied the first two goals of the second period before the Marleau line cleaned up with the next two goals.

Florida, playing one night after a 4-3 loss in Dallas, never led while posting an Eastern Conference pacing 17th loss.

San Jose opened the scoring 11:02 into the first period. Marleau dented the left post with a wrister from 15-feet out. Alyn McCauley stuffed the short rebound behind goalie Jamie McLennan.

The Panthers’ lone tie came at the 14:05 mark when Stephen Weiss took advantage of a bouncing puck in the low slot to find the high right corner of the net from point-blank range against goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Winger Josh Langfeld assisted on both Smith goals. On the one to make it 2-1, Langfeld’s centering try from behind the net nudged off the net, an invitation for Smith to drill home the puck from the left edge of the crease at 5:23.

“I drove to the net hard and picked up a little garbage,” said Smith of the tie-breaker.

Smith took a Langfeld offering and skated wide around the Florida net before settling at the low edge of the right-wing circle and delivering a nifty slapshot over McLennan’s shoulder at 9:04 to make it 3-1.

Smith “gives you everything he’s got every shift,” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. “It’s nice to see someone rewarded for his effort. Those were huge goals for us at that point in the game.”

Marleau made it 4-1, then assisted on the goal opening a 5-1 gap. The Sharks captain set a franchise record with 12 points in a four-game span.

Thornton set the tone for the Sharks’ fourth goal with a bull-rush with the puck past the the Florida defense before dishing the puck off to cousin Scott Thornton at the right post. McLennan rebuffed the elder Thornton but could not prevent Marleau from finding the loose puck at the center of the crease for the easy put-back at 12:02.

McLennan stopped Marleau on a breakaway with a diving poke-check. The puck slid to the left goalline before an alert Grant Stevenson backhanded the puck into the net from 20 feet at 14:56.

“Patty’s playing the best hockey I’ve seen him play,” said Wilson.

“Joe had some outstanding moves. They are making a statement as far as Canadian Olympics are concerned.”

Florida was able to stop the onslaught when Josef Stumpel scored his first goal of the season at the 15:40 mark of the second period.

Joe Thornton’s soft centering pass to Scott Thornton resulted in a 6-2 final when Scott’s short shot found the twine at 17:59 of the third period.

“In the first period we weren’t very sharp,” said Wilson. He credited Nabokov with several key saves to keep the score tied after 20 minutes.

The Sharks face the Southeast Division leader Carolina Hurricanes Saturday, then return to action Friday against Southeast cellar-dweller Washington.