Final

Series (Game 4 of 4)

San Jose leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, December 31st
Sharks1Final
Blue Jackets0
Game 2: Thursday, January 8th
Blue Jackets3Final
OT
Sharks2
Game 3: Saturday, February 14th
Sharks2Final
OT
Blue Jackets1
Game 4: Monday, February 23rd
Blue Jackets2Final
Sharks4

Blue Jackets 2

(17-33-4, 46 pts)

Sharks 4

(30-16-5, 76 pts)

10:30 PM ET, February 23, 2004

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
CBJ 1 0 12
SJ 2 0 24

J. Cheechoo (Sharks - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

M. Sturm (Sharks - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

M. Rathje (Sharks - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Sharks shred tired Blue Jackets

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Jonathan Cheechoo got his first NHL penalty shot under ideal circumstances: on fresh ice against a rookie goalie, with a home crowd roaring encouragement.

To nobody's surprise, Cheechoo scored with his latest great move in a season full of them.

Cheechoo scored twice in the third period and Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves in the Sharks' 4-2 victory over the road-weary Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

Marco Sturm and Alyn McCauley scored first-period goals for the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. San Jose returned from a six-game road trip for its fourth victory in five games -- but it wasn't secure until Cheechoo's line dominated the third period.

Cheechoo was pulled down by Anders Eriksson on a breakaway early in the third, setting up the right wing's first penalty shot since he was 14 years old. He chose a nifty backhand shot, easily beating Pascal Leclaire for his 17th goal.

"I wanted to freeze him, and the ice was good, so I could make the move I wanted," Cheechoo said. "I knew he might not be expecting that, and everything worked out the way I thought it would. I don't get too many of those in my life, so that was great."

Cheechoo scored again with 3:18 to play on an exceptional pass from Mike Ricci. He has four goals in his last four games, again providing a scoring punch that has been a significant part of the Sharks' success in holding off Dallas atop the division.

"He made a nice move," Sturm said. "I thought he was going to go top-shelf. That's what he always does in practice. ... We're loose; we're having fun. That's why it's going like it is for us."

While the Sharks enjoyed themselves, the Blue Jackets extended their road winless streak to 11 games (0-8-3). Columbus hasn't won on the road since a 3-2 overtime victory at the Shark Tank on Jan. 8.

Rostislav Klesla and Eriksson scored for the Blue Jackets, who finished an 0-4 road trip with even more frustration for the Western Conference's last-place team. There was bad news, too: Klesla didn't return after spraining his wrist on a hard check from Scott Parker late in the second period.

"We had some momentum going, and we scored the second goal to make it a close game," Columbus interim coach Gerard Gallant said. "We didn't deserve to be in it, don't get me wrong, but we still made it a close game."

San Jose took 50 shots in a 2-1 victory at Columbus nine days earlier, but this one was much more competitive. The Blue Jackets cut the lead to 3-2 on Eriksson's goal midway through the third period before Cheechoo's second goal.

Lousy defense is the biggest culprit in Columbus' road woes. The Blue Jackets have allowed 38 goals during their winless skid, and they repeatedly left the Sharks untouched on their passes and shots.

Leclaire stopped 34 shots in the second NHL appearance for the Blue Jackets' 2001 first-round draft pick. With Fred Brathwaite due to return from a conditioning assignment Tuesday, Leclaire is headed back to Syracuse of the AHL.

"These games I can use for experience," said Leclaire, who got a few pointers from goaltending coach Rick Wamsley in the dressing room. "I can take the experience and use it for learning. This was good for me. ... For about 10 minutes, I felt a little numb out there, but after that I started to see the puck real well."

Sturm extended his points streak to five games with a backhand power-play goal late in the first period. He has six goals and five assists in the Sharks' nine February games.

Game notes


Heavyweights Jody Shelley and Parker fought early in the second period. Parker landed most of the punches, but Shelley got in a few big licks. Both got a standing ovation on the way to the penalty box. "Just a couple of guys beating on each other. Good times," Parker laughed. ... Rookie D Christian Ehrhoff, recalled from the AHL's Cleveland Barons earlier in the day, got an assist on Sturm's goal. He has 10 assists in 35 games this season. ... Sharks D Kyle McLaren played the 500th game of his career.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES