San Jose-Dallas: Sharks Return to Form, Shoot Down the Stars

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 25:  Mike Ribeiro #63 of the Dallas Stars skates with the puck under pressure from Devin Setoguchi #16 of the San Jose Sharks during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 25, 2008 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For the first time all season, an injury that forced head coach Todd McLellan to juggle the lines has actually created some new energy.

Sharks' winger Ryane Clowe's recent lower-body injury (that will force him to miss up to 10 days) is paving the way for fellow winger Devin Setoguchi to regain his scoring touch.

Setoguchi now joins center Joe Pavelski and left-wing Milan Michalek on the Sharks second forward group, which has arguably been the Sharks most dynamic offensive threat this season.

Now the Sharks will still miss Clowe, who was having a career year with 22 goals and 52 points before being injured.

However, the injury gives head coach Todd McLellan some new flexibility in the lines and some new chemistry that will help in the playoffs knowing there are different combinations that work well offensively.

In fact, come playoff time, Clowe may see time on the third line, if the newly formed second-line keeps up the play in his absence.

In Saturday's afternoon matinee at the Shark Tank, a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, all three second-line forwards were among the three stars of the game.

Albeit, the game didn't start out well for San Jose as Dallas began the game out-shooting the Sharks 8-2 and then abruptly took 1-0 lead at the 7:30 mark when Stars forward Loui Eriksson put Dallas ahead.

Eriksson picked up a centering feed from center-man Brendan Morrisson and got leverage around the defender but was forced to a bad angle.

The Dallas winger then cut hard behind and around the goal and beat Nabokov to the other side, scoring on a nifty back-handed wrap-around.

It didn't take long for the Sharks to respond as about five minutes later, San Jose's energy line of Jody Shelley, and rookies Ryan Vesce and Brad Staubitz created great pressure which ended with Staubitz drawing a hooking penalty on Stephan Robidas at the 12:28 mark.

On the ensuing power-play opportunity, the Sharks would tie the score. After knocking the puck loose out of a scrum to Marleau, Joe Thornton would end up getting the puck back down low in the corner and then just skated towards the net and snuck a shot through the 5-hole of Turco. The Stars goalie may have been cheating a little bit to defend against the pass.

The goal tied the score at one at the 13:34 mark, but it wouldn't remain tied for long as less than 30 seconds later, the Sharks took the lead. Setoguchi drove the puck deep into the zone where defenseman Brad Lukowich helped out down-low on the fore-check and forced the puck loose to Pavelski.

The Sharks center then curled around the net and found Lukowich alone in front of the net and the defenseman fired a shot that appeared to be eaten up by Turco. However, the puck was lying right behind him near the post and Devin Setoguchi was Johnny on the spot to slam it home.

Setoguchi's go-ahead goal was his first in 12 games and it couldn't have come at a better time as the Sharks were able to stun the Stars with two quick goals to completely change the flow of the game.

The score would remain 2-1 in the Sharks favor going into the second period. In the middle frame, the Sharks would once again score two quick goals less than 30 seconds apart.

First it was Joe Pavelski's turn as the Sharks center got a lucky bounce off the face-off. He knocked the puck towards the net, where Stars defenseman Trevor Daley tried to kick it out of harm's way but kicked it right back to Pavelski who beat Turco with a wicked wrist-shot, near-side, top corner.

Before Sharks fans could finish celebrating Pavelski's goal to go up 3-1, Milan Michalek made it 4-1. Setoguchi's attempted wrap-around got knocked back behind the net where Michalek beat his man to the puck.

The Stars defender hit the deck, and then Michalek curled around about half way between the boards and the goal before shooting one hard towards the net trying to hit Setoguchi. The puck caromed off Stars forward Brad Richards and into the net past Turco for the 4-1 advantage.

Dallas wouldn't wasn't done yet however, as early in the third, Stephan Robidas who took the penalty that led to the Sharks' first goal, made up for it with one of his own.

A simple D-to-D passing play at the point with defensive partner Nicklas Grossman ended up in a one-timer, by Robidas, who slammed it through the 5-hole of a screened Evgeni Nabokov.

But that would be the end of the Dallas' scoring in this one. The Sharks clamped down defensively and maintained their two-goal lead and then built upon it, which is something the Sharks have failed to do in recent games: close out games in the final period.

Even though it wasn't the most conventional way to seal a game, it got the job done. With Michalek in the penalty box for cross-checking, the Stars pulled Turco for a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:18 remaining.

However, a pass up the boards by Dallas was off the mark forcing Mike Ribiero to dive out to try and direct the puck towards the opposite point-man, Marleau picked off the puck and jetted through the neutral zone on a break-away with an empty net and iced the game with his 37th goal of the season with exactly one minute remaining.

The win was the best the Sharks have played in nearly two weeks, dominating the game for major stretches and finishing their opportunities.

San Jose now pulls back within a point of the Red Wings and plays again tomorrow against Colorado with a chance to regain the top spot in the Western Conference.


Game Notes:

Sharks defenseman Rob Blake missed the majority of the last two periods after sustaining some sort of undisclosed injury. There wasn't any particular play where Blake came off the ice gingerly, and hopefully for the Sharks, it's nothing serious.

However, in the third Marcel Goc collided with a Stars player behind the net and appeared to seriously injure his left leg as he needed both the Sharks trainer and defenseman Douglas Murray to help him off the ice.

From the looks of it, Goc's injury should be more severe than Blake's.


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