Final

Series (Game 8 of 8)

Series tied 4-4

Game 1: Friday, November 4th
Sharks1Final
OT
Ducks0
Game 2: Sunday, December 18th
Sharks4Final
Ducks5
Game 3: Tuesday, December 20th
Ducks2Final
Sharks4
Game 4: Thursday, January 26th
Ducks2Final
Sharks0
Game 5: Wednesday, February 1st
Sharks6Final
Ducks4
Game 6: Saturday, February 4th
Ducks2Final
Sharks0
Game 7: Tuesday, March 7th
Sharks4Final
OT
Ducks5
Game 8: Saturday, April 15th
Ducks3Final
Sharks6

Ducks 3

(42-27-12, 96 pts)

Sharks 6

(44-26-11, 99 pts)

4:30 PM ET, April 15, 2006

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
ANA 0 1 23
SJ 3 2 16

J. Cheechoo (Sharks - RW): Goals: 3, Assists: 2

N. Ekman (Sharks - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 3

J. Thornton (Sharks - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

Cheechoo, Thornton help Sharks clinch West's fifth seed

SAN JOSE, Calif. (ESPN.com news services) -- When Jonathan Cheechoo scored his third goal all the way from San Jose's end of the ice in the closing seconds, the resulting avalanche of hats put a fitting cap on two incredible weeks for the Sharks.

Joe Thornton has 96 assists this season. The most recent 95-assist seasons:
Adam Oates '92-93 Bruins 97
Doug Gilmour '92-93 Maple Leafs 95
Pat LaFontaine '92-93 Sabres 95
Wayne Gretzky '90-91 Kings 122
Wayne Gretzky '89-90 Kings 102

They're headed to the playoffs with the Western Conference's No. 5 seed after eight consecutive victories -- and there's a good chance they'll take two scoring trophies along with them.

Cheechoo became the NHL's leading goal-scorer with his fifth hat trick and Joe Thornton took the league scoring lead with three points in the Sharks' 6-3 over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Saturday.

Nils Ekman had a goal and three assists alongside Thornton and Cheechoo on the Sharks' devastating top line, which scored four goals while San Jose took a 5-1 lead after two periods in the fifth-place clincher. The Sharks were in 10th place just 12 days earlier, but they show no signs of slowing down during the longest winning streak in franchise history.

"We're a pretty confident bunch right now," said Cheechoo, who had eight family members in the stands -- including his grandmother on her first trip to San Jose. "We're in a good position that we earned. A lot of hard work is paying off, because it feels like we've been playing for our lives ever since the Olympics."

San Jose, a conference finalist in 2004, will open the playoffs on the road next week against the fourth-place Nashville Predators, who have never won a playoff series.

Cheechoo scored two early power-play goals before getting that empty-netter from his own blue line with 1.7 seconds to play, giving him 56 goals in his quest for his first Maurice Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer.

Thornton had a goal just 21 seconds into the game and later added two assists, giving him 19 points during Team Teal's winning streak.

"It's great, but we're looking toward the postseason now," Thornton said. "I think we'll be a tough matchup for teams."

Thornton, who has 125 points, and Cheechoo both passed Jaromir Jagr, who didn't score in the New York Rangers' 4-1 loss to Philadelphia. Jagr has 54 goals and 122 points.

Thornton's 96 assists for the season means he now has more assists than the leading scorer had points in the previous season. Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis had 94 points to lead the NHL in 2003-04. The only other time in NHL history this occurred in a non-strike or lockout-shortened season was in 1929-30 when Frank Boucher had 36 assists, which was better than Ace Bailey's league-leading 32 points in 1928-29.

San Jose's last regular-season game is Monday night at the Shark Tank against Los Angeles, while Jagr and the Rangers finish the season Tuesday at home against Ottawa.

"The right guys are scoring for us," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "I'm cheering for Joe to win the scoring title and for Cheech to win the goals title, the Richard Trophy. Provided it doesn't take away from what we're trying to do to win, I'll do everything in my power to put them in the position to succeed."

Vesa Toskala made 31 saves and Steve Bernier scored a shorthanded goal for the Sharks, who rose five places in the conference standings in the previous 10 days. They have 99 points, matching the second most in Sharks history, after struggling to get into the conference's top eight for most of the season.

Joffrey Lupul and Andy McDonald got third-period goals and Ryan Getzlaf also scored for the Ducks, who dropped to sixth place in the conference after San Jose beat Vancouver on Thursday night. Anaheim, which lost its third straight to close a five-game road trip, finishes its season Monday against Calgary, its possible first-round opponent.

"San Jose is playing well. That line is cooking," said Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer, who sat out the third period to rest. "We need to keep up the attack. If we're spectators for just a few seconds, it makes all the difference."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped just 13-of-18 shots before Ilya Bryzgalov replaced him for the third period.

Thornton wasted no time claiming the overall scoring lead from Jagr: After Anaheim won the opening faceoff but iced the puck, he slipped in front of the net and banged home a swift pass from Ekman for his 29th goal.

Just six seconds into a power play midway through the period, Cheechoo caught Giguere far from his net, beating the goalie with a one-timer on another pass from Ekman. Cheechoo added his 55th goal during another power play in the opening minute of the second period, tucking a loose rebound around the post.

"We were standing around a little too much," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We got ourselves into some problems. We were standing around watching Cheechoo and Thornton move the puck, and that's a disaster when you do that."

Game notes


Anaheim left winger Todd Fedoruk slipped and crashed hard into the end boards along with San Jose's Ville Nieminen late in the first period. Fedoruk developed back spasms and didn't return but doesn't think the injury is serious. ... Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin took a run at Cheechoo in the third period, sending him into the boards with a questionable check to the head. Beauchemin wasn't penalized. ... Ekman's four-point game was his fourth of the season, matching his career high.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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