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Marleau's hat trick no treat for Predators

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Patrick Marleau quietly turned in
another fantastic postseason performance -- and the San Jose Sharks
needed every one of his three goals to take control of their series
with the Nashville Predators.

San Jose's captain had his third career postseason hat trick,
and the Sharks pushed the Predators to the brink of elimination
with a 5-4 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night.

NHL scoring champion Joe Thornton had two assists, giving him
three points in the series, but Marleau has taken the offensive
lead as San Jose took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game
5 is Sunday in Nashville.

Marleau, the Sharks' franchise leader in postseason goals,
scored a career-best 86 points during the regular season. He
punctuated four games of outstanding hockey against the Predators
with two power-play goals in the second period and a third-period
tip-in on an outstanding pass from rookie Steve Bernier, his
linemate and housemate in San Jose.

Marleau doesn't say much as the Sharks' leader by example, but
his inspired postseason play is nothing new for his teammates.
There have been four playoff hat tricks in Sharks history -- and
Marleau has three of them, including three-goal games against St.
Louis and Colorado in 2004.

"He's our captain, and it just goes to show that he's been
doing it and we've been following him all season long," said Mark
Smith, who scored his third goal of the series for San Jose. "The
bigger the game, the bigger he is as a player."

The Sharks went up 5-2 on Marleau's third goal, but Mike
Sillinger and Scott Hartnell scored in the final 10 minutes for
Nashville, which outshot San Jose 14-3 in the third period. The
Predators pulled goalie Chris Mason, but couldn't score in the
frantic final seconds.

"I thought it was done, but we let them back in," Marleau
said. "It's too bad it took five (goals) to get it done. ... I
don't know about me. It's just a great time of the year. Everybody
is pulling for each other, and everybody is working together to get
the job done."

Rookie Patrick Rissmiller also scored for the Sharks.

Paul Kariya got his first goal of the series and an assist, and
promising rookie defenseman Shea Weber also scored for Nashville.
Mason made 19 saves while losing again for fourth-seeded Nashville,
which must win three straight games for the first playoff series
victory in franchise history, and the Predators' inspired third
period could bode well for Game 5.

"We know how to break down their strengths now," Nashville
coach Barry Trotz said. "We just have to match them on special
teams. Special teams were the difference. We're just going to get
better as this series goes on. We've found out how to beat this
team."

The Predators again were punished for lapses in discipline: San
Jose scored two power-play goals and another moments after an
expired penalty, giving them seven man-advantage scores in the
series.

Vesa Toskala made 26 saves in his third career playoff victory,
but allowed his first even-strength goals of the series.

Nashville went ahead 2-1 early in the second period on Weber's
low slap shot through traffic. It was Weber's second goal of the
postseason, matching his total in 28 regular-season games, and the
Predators finally had some momentum in a one-sided series.

"We finally started to play good hockey," Kariya said. "We
outplayed them 5-on-5, but penalties killed us again."

Indeed, the Predators' series-long propensity for foolish
penalties hurt them again moments after taking the lead, when Weber
took an interference penalty. Marleau tipped in Christian Ehrhoff's
long shot for his fourth goal in three games.

Nashville then committed two more clear-cut penalties to give
San Jose a 5-on-3 advantage, and Marleau tipped home Thornton's
pass for an easy goal.

Two seconds after the second penalty expired, Smith jumped on a
rebound and fired a heavy shot past Mason for his third goal of an
impressive series for a checking-line center promoted to a spot
next to Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Marleau's third goal was set up by a crushing check by
defenseman Kyle McLaren early in the third period. Bernier jumped
on the loose puck, skated three-quarters of the ice and fed
Marleau, who tipped it home and caused a barrage of hats on the
ice.

"Down one goal, we felt like we had a chance," Mason said.
"We kept the pressure on. That's a little something to build
on."

Game notes
Steve Sullivan, the Predators' second-leading scorer in the
regular season with 68 points, assisted on Weber's goal for his
first point of the playoffs. ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
attended the game, even serving his own dinner in the media
cafeteria. ... Smith, who scored in both of the Sharks' games in
Nashville, had only one playoff goal in his career before this
season: the series-clincher in San Jose's first-round victory over
St. Louis in 2004.