– Another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs was locked up
Thursday night for the San Jose Sharks.
Antti Niemi’s sixth shut-out of the season propelled the Sharks
past the Dallas Stars 6-0 at sold-out HP Pavilion, clinching a spot
in the Western Conference post-season.
SAN JOSE – Another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs was locked up Thursday night for the San Jose Sharks.
Antti Niemi’s sixth shut-out of the season propelled the Sharks past the Dallas Stars 6-0 at sold-out HP Pavilion, clinching a spot in the Western Conference post-season.
San Jose’s 45th victory also lifted the club past Detroit and into second place in the conference with five games left to play by both teams.
Dallas has not won in two weeks, leaving the Stars in the cellar of the Pacific Division. Dallas sits in ninth place, trailing Chicago by three points with six games to play.
San Jose, four points in front of Phoenix in the race for the Pacific Division crown, continues a three-game home stand with games Saturday (7:30pm) against the Anaheim Ducks, then Monday against the Los Angeles Kings (7pm). A 3-1 loss to Vancouver left the Kings in a tie for fifth place with Nashville at 94 points.
Dan Boyle recorded his seventh goal of the season 16:12 into play to open the scoring.
Kyle Wellwood ignited the scoring play with a long pass to Joe Pavelski near the Dallas blueline. Closely guarded by Star Jeff Woywitka, Pavelski was able to back into position near the left dot before pulling a shot on net that goaltender Kari Lehtonen kicked aside.
When Woywitka was not able to immediately clear the rebound, an advancing Boyle slipped inside the position of defenseman Trevor Daley near the crease and jabbed the puck past Lehtonen.
Couture joined Islander Michael Graebner atop the rookie goal-scorers’ list with his 31st of the season 4:30 into the second period on the power play.
The Sharks needed 64 seconds of power play to take the 2-0 lead. Boyle’s hard shot from the right point was deflected away by Lehtonen. Dany Heatley was able to put a close shot on net that resulted in the puck lifting high toward the right circle. Couture was able to grab the puck, quickly drop it to the ice and slip the puck behind Lehtonen.
San Jose secured a 3-0 lead with an even-strength tally at 18:25 of the second period.
Joe Thornton was able to keep his balance against a hard check in the offensive zone before sending a long cross-ice pass to an unmarked Marc-Eduoard Vlasic inside the blue line. Vlasic’s long shot found the inside of the left post as Shark Devin Setoguchi screened Lehtonen.
Patrick Marleau’s 34th goal of the season 2:30 into the third period left Marleau and Thornton tied at 65 points for the team lead.
A Dallas turnover in the neutral zone began the scoring play. Defenseman Ian White secured the puck and forwarded it to winger Jamal Mayers. Marleau quickly sped into the offensive zone after taking Mayers’ pass. Marleau went wide of defenseman Woywitka before finding the inside of the right post with the low shot to the stick side.
Marleau and Thornton combined on the team’s fifth goal at 12:26 of the third period. Thornton pulled the puck away from a crowd in the left corner of the offensive zone, then controlled it behind the net before finding Marleau ready at the top of the crease for the quick backhander behind back-up goalie Andrew Raycroft.
Ben Eager added his sixth goal of the season at the 14:18 mark to make it 7-0. Mayers and Eager approached the Dallas zone on a 2-on-2 rush before Mayers passed the puck to Eager in the slot. Eager pulled the puck between his skates before completing the play with a crisp shot inside the right post.
Marleau set a franchise record with 12 shots on net. San Jose finished with 52 shots on net, the top mark for this season for the team.