San Jose Sharks Continue Run Toward Western Conference Elite

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIFebruary 21, 2011

Devin Setoguchi got his first hat trick Saturday night
Devin Setoguchi got his first hat trick Saturday nightEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Ryane Clowe played in his 300th game for the San Jose Sharks, and scored a goal to celebrate.

Only one other player scored Saturday, with Devin Setoguchi getting his first career hat trick. Antti Niemi continued to make fans forget about Evgeni Nabokov, making 25 saves in his 16th straight start for his fifth shutout of the season.

The Sharks' power play, after going 0-12 over six games, ran a streak of three straight conversions with two tallies added in the first period before failing on one in the third.

Setoguchi scored the first of them on a rebound off the back boards from newest Shark Ian White, but it was not the first goal. He also scored when he beat a forward into the attacking zone and split two defenders, being far enough ahead to put on one deke and lift a backhand past Peter Budaj.

Clowe got the second power play goal when his pass went off a defender's leg and right back to him. He swatted the puck hovering a couple inches off the ice into the net with a backhand and the Sharks had a 3-0 lead with over three minutes to go.

Unfortunately, the Sharks got complacent again. They were out-shot 11-4 in the second period after having a 17-8 edge in the first.

However, Niemi held down the fort, including a pad save on a shot after a failed poke-check attempt and two second period power plays. By the third period, the Sharks got the momentum back but could not get one past Budaj until a Setoguchi breakaway in the final 90 seconds that spawned a rain of hats...except for the lid worn by the most famous of Sharks season ticket holders, Neil Young.

It was San Jose's first victory of more than two goals since Dec. 2, a span of over 11 weeks. It was done without Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was hurt in the previous game against Washington, and without Scott Nichol for almost the entire game after a missed check resulted in a first-period injury.

Despite losing the faceoff battle 27-30, the Sharks outshot the Avs 33-25 and still managed more blocked shots (21-13). Penalties (five for 13 minutes) and hits (18) were even, and giveaways (10-8) and takeaways (6-5) virtually so.

The win put the Sharks alone in fourth place in the Western Conference playoff standings, and a game and a half ahead of the ninth spot. It also leaves them merely a half-game behind Phoenix for the division lead.

The Sharks embark on another road trip that starts Tuesday night in Detroit. It continues Wednesday in Pittsburgh, then concludes against the red-hot Calgary Flames Friday. That will leave the Sharks with only six remaining road games.