Final OT

Series (Game 4 of 4)

San Jose leads 3-1

Game 1: Friday, October 7th
Sharks3Final
Blackhawks6
Game 2: Saturday, October 15th
Blackhawks3Final
Sharks4
Game 3: Wednesday, February 8th
Blackhawks1Final
Sharks2
Game 4: Sunday, March 26th
Sharks5Final
OT
Blackhawks4

Sharks 5

(36-24-10, 82 pts)

Blackhawks 4

(21-38-11, 53 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 26, 2006

United Center, Chicago, Illinois

1 2 3 OT T
SJ 2 1 1 15
CHI 2 1 1 04

R. Vrbata (Blackhawks - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 2

J. Thornton (Sharks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 3

M. Cullen (Blackhawks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Preissing's power-play goal lifts Sharks past Blackhawks in OT

CHICAGO (AP) -- Joe Thornton finds his teammates when they have the best angle to shoot and gives them the puck at the split second they're open.

He's been doing it since joining the San Jose Sharks nearly four months ago. It's a reason they're back in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Thornton got the puck to Tom Preissing, who scored the winner 1:24 into overtime Sunday night with a slapper from the high slot as the Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4.

"When Joe got the puck I was screaming at him pretty loud and obviously Joe Thornton knows how to find guys," Preissing said. "He's fun to play with and watch out there. He knows where you want the puck and he gets it there. Basically I did the easy part. He did all the work."

Thornton finished the night with three assists, giving him six in a span of 24 hours. He also had three Saturday night against Minnesota while eclipsing the franchise record of 52 for a season. Since joining the Sharks in a Nov. 30 trade from Boston, he has 57 assists.

"He's always been good. He's definitely their leader," Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. "He's a terrific player no matter who he plays for."

Kyle Calder's power-play goal with 1:12 left in regulation tied it for Chicago at 4. The Blackhawks had a 6-on-4 skating advantage after pulling goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, and Calder tipped in a shot past Vesa Toskala.

But Chicago's Jim Vandermeer was called for holding with 26 seconds left in regulation, giving the Sharks a 4-on-3 power play to start the extra period and they made it work. Another penalty was about to be called on the Hawks in overtime when Preissing scored.

"I saw there was a penalty and Tom was wide open. He made a good shot to beat Khabibulin," Thornton said.

But the key penalty was the one on Vandermeer with the clock winding down in regulation.

"We talk about decisions. He made a bad decision at the blue line to put himself in that position," Yawney said.

San Jose had taken a 4-3 lead when Mark Smith collected a rebound of his own miss, skated behind the net and scored on a wraparound past Khabibulin at 7:33 of the third period.

The Sharks, who have 82 points have won eight of 11. The Blackhawks have lost five straight. San Jose is 28-12-6 with Thornton.

"The guys are just shooting the puck real well right now," Thornton said. "They're making me look better than I am."

Radim Vrbata's second goal of the game gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead in the second, but the Sharks tied it when Nils Ekman took a nice pass from Thornton to score from right in front with just under 2 minutes left in the period.

The Blackhawks got a rare power-play goal in the first from Mikael Holmqvist, who redirected Mark Bell's slap shot from just inside the blue line for a 2-1 lead.

But just 2:17 later, San Jose's Steve Bernier pushed a rebound past Khabibulin for a 1-1 tie.

The Sharks, who beat Minnesota 5-1 on Saturday night and were playing the fourth game of a five-game, weeklong road trip, were anything but weary early. They peppered Khabibulin with 16 first-period shots. Chicago had just six.

Pat Rissmiller scored on a shot from the right circle just 3 minutes into the game when the puck got by Khabibulin after he was screened by teammate Curtis Brown. Chicago responded quickly, tying the game 37 seconds later when Vrbata took a nice crossing pass from Mark Cullen for the score.

Game notes


Chicago entered the game with the NHL's worst power play, converting just 12 percent of its chances. ... Jose is 25-6-2 when scoring first. ... The 20,500-seat United Center was less than half full. Attendance was announced at 10,121. ... Vrbata also had two assists.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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