SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Now that Jonathan Cheechoo has
everyone's attention, the hockey world finally might notice the San
Jose Sharks. With another home playoff victory, they put the mighty
Avalanche on the run.
Patrick Marleau scored his NHL-leading seventh goal of the
postseason, and Cheechoo scored a breathtaking between-the-legs
goal in the Sharks' 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday in Game 2 of
their second-round playoff series.
Marleau, Cheechoo and Vincent Damphousse each had a goal and an
assist as the Sharks took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves despite getting flattened by Peter
Forsberg, and Wayne Primeau added an empty-net goal to push the
Sharks within two victories of the franchise's first trip to the
Except for Cheechoo's highlight-reel goal, not much was flashy
about the speedy, workmanlike Sharks -- but they headed to Game 3 in
Denver on Monday with five straight home playoff victories and all
the momentum in the series.
"I think most hockey people know about us," said Marleau, who
had a hat trick in the series opener. "Maybe we don't get all the
attention that some teams do, but we're just focused on our
The Sharks are still swimming under the international radar
during the best season in franchise history. They don't have
superstars, and they play on the West Coast in a warm-weather town
with not much general interest in hockey.
But Cheechoo's goal will be a highlight-reel staple for the
foreseeable future -- and everything else could change quickly if
the Sharks build on their outstanding playoff start.
The Sharks recovered from an early deficit and led 2-1 entering
the third period, but it was a tense game until Cheechoo, a 28-goal
scorer in the regular season, surprised even himself.
During a power play, Brad Stuart took the puck low and made a
slow pass in front to Cheechoo, who put his stick between his legs,
trapped the puck behind his back and flipped a shot past
Aebischer's glove in one fluid motion. Coach Ron Wilson didn't
believe his eyes until he checked the Sharks' replay monitor on the
"I don't think I've ever even practiced that," Cheechoo said
with a sheepish grin. "I was just running out of options. Their
sticks were in the way, in the way, in the way, and I had to try
Niko Dimitrakos had two assists, including an exceptional pass
to Marleau to set up the captain's goal in the final minute of the
second period. Dimitrakos has five assists in the Sharks' two
second-round games, both models of San Jose's relentless
discipline, puck possession and strong defense.
Milan Hejduk scored for the Avalanche, who lost the first two
games of a playoff series for the first time since the 1999
conference semifinals. David Aebischer improved on his subpar
opening-game performance with 20 saves, but he had practically no
chance to stop any of the Sharks' goals.
"We have to win Game 3. We have no choice," Avalanche captain
Joe Sakic said. "We get a little sloppy when things don't go our
way, and we have to turn that around. They have the jump on us.
We're getting outworked. They're playing with a lot more intensity
than we are."
The Avalanche lost their cool in Game 1, starting four fights in
the final seconds of their 5-2 loss. They were vastly improved in
the rematch, keeping their composure and taking an early lead when
San Jose had a rare lapse in discipline, getting caught in a sloppy
Nabokov was left defenseless, and Matthew Barnaby set up
Hejduk's fourth goal of the postseason. But although Forsberg
played his usual dominant game, the Avalanche couldn't score again
-- and Forsberg's aggression also resulted in two key interference
penalties in the second period.
"Sometimes you get the calls, but I'm not happy with the way
we're playing," Forsberg said. "We need to take care of things on
our home ice. We definitely need to play better. They have
Damphousse scored on the power play following Forsberg's first
penalty of the period, and his apparent goal while running over
Nabokov moments later was waved off. Forsberg complained bitterly
on his way to the box.
Sakic also set up Cheechoo's goal with a boarding penalty in the
With the return of All-Star Alex Tanguay, who missed the
last two games with a knee injury, Colorado scratched nine-time
All-Star Teemu Selanne, who had just 16 goals in the regular
season. ... Early in the second period, Forsberg swatted the puck
into the Sharks' net with his glove. Officials immediately waved
off the goal. ... Primeau's goal was his first point of the