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Cheechoo, Sharks inch closer to locking up playoff berth

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The road and the Los Angeles Kings have been
very good for the San Jose Sharks' playoff hopes.

Jonathan Cheechoo had two goals and an assist as Sharks moved
one step closer to securing a playoff spot with a 5-0 victory over
the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala made just 14 saves to earn his second
shutout of the season. Scott Thornton, Joe Thornton and Steve
Bernier scored third-period goals for San Jose as the Sharks moved
into a seventh-place tie with Edmonton.

After wining all three games of a road trip to Dallas, Colorado
and Los Angeles, the Sharks now have a two-point lead over
ninth-place Vancouver and a four-point edge over the Kings in
tenth.

"Obviously you want to make the playoffs as a first priority,
but along the way you want to finish as high as you can," San Jose
coach Ron Wilson said. "This road trip gives us a lot of
confidence, because they were all tough games."

San Jose has won five straight against the Kings, taking three
of the four games played in Los Angeles to lead the season series
6-1. The teams will meet in the final game of the season in San
Jose.

"We made too many mistakes, it was everybody," said Kings
forward Pavol Demitra, who was held without a shot. "We look like
we are so nervous, like we don't want to play."

Cheechoo fired a 35-foot slap shot over the glove of Kings
goalie Mathieu Garon to give San Jose a 1-0 lead 3:26 into the
game.

"It seems as though the Kings thought we would come out slow
tonight, we had a 60-minute, good effort from everyone and they
underestimated how we'd come out," said Joe Thornton, who also
improved his league-leading assist total to 83 with a pair.

Garon made two sharp glove saves in the second -- one on
Cheechoo, the other on Patrick Marleau off a two-on-one rush -- to
keep Los Angeles within a goal.

But Joe Thornton and Cheechoo were able to work a set play for a
goal off a late-second period faceoff to give San Jose a two-goal
cushion going into the third period. Thornton went forward on the
draw and then slid a pass through the crease to
Cheechoo for a tap-in goal.

"We've tried it a few times, it never really connected like
tonight," said Cheechoo, who now has 48 goals, 41 since Thornton
was acquired from Boston on Nov. 30. "You have to try things off
the faceoff just to catch them off guard."

Toskala has started 13 of the last 16 games for San Jose,
winning nine -- including all three games of the Sharks road trip
that ended in Los Angeles.

"He was great whenever we did break down. He made three or four
great saves," Wilson said.

Los Angeles interim head coach John Torchetti dropped to 3-5
since replacing Andy Murray on March 21.

"I think I have to get them better prepared for the next
game," Torchetti said. "I'm the coach, I'll take full
responsibility."

Game Notes
Kings veteran left wing Luc Robitaille was a healthy
scratch for a third straight game. Defenseman Nathan Dempsey was
cleared to play following a concussion, but was also a healthy
scratch. ... The Sharks will play four of their final six games at
home.