The Carolina Hurricanes? Well, they're just about out of time.
Brad Stuart scored his first goal in more than two months, and
Marleau had three assists as the Sharks beat freefalling Carolina
6-2 Wednesday night.
The Sharks' fourth victory in five games pushed them to 10th
place in the Western Conference, six points behind eighth-place
Anaheim. It's a tough task, but not an impossible one: To make the
playoffs, they'll need more wildly aggressive offensive games
similar to the one they played against Carolina.
"Everybody is ready to make a run here, and it's going to start
with this one,'' said Marleau, who hadn't recorded an assist in the
previous 16 games before getting one in every period against the
Hurricanes. "If you spread the scoring around the way we did,
teams can't really focus on one or two guys. It's great to see
offense coming from all parts of our team.''
The Sharks' hopes of improving their regular-season point total
for an NHL-record seventh straight season are all but dead, since
they'd need to collect 49 points from their final 30 games to
surpass last season's 99 points.
But the Sharks still cling to playoff hopes, even though they're
headed out on a seven-game road trip after pounding the Hurricanes,
who had a dismal start to a four-game Western road swing with their
sixth straight road defeat.
Jaroslav Svoboda had two assists for the Hurricanes, 1-9-0-2 in
their last 12 games, dropping the defending Eastern Conference
champions to 13th in the conference standings _ just four points
out of the cellar. San Jose's six goals matched Carolina's worst
defensive game of the season.
"We've had a month of losses, and this is certainly the poorest
performance of the group,'' Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We
made foolish plays and foolish penalties. We gave them a couple of
softball scores, and that hurt.''
Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves in his fifth straight start. In a
remarkable confluence, Nabokov also passed former Sharks goalie
Arturs Irbe by playing in his franchise-record 184th game and
surpassing Irbe's franchise-record of 10,286 minutes in goal in the
same game -- with Irbe playing terribly in the other net, no less.
"It was a lack of skating,'' Carolina left wing Sami Kapanen
said. "It's time to get angry and step up and take charge. We seem
to be lacking aggression out there.''
Cheechoo scored just 2:06 in on a rebound of Adam Graves' shot.
After Adams tied it, Stuart and Thornton added power-play goals 5½
minutes apart later in the period. Both goals were the result of
patient passing, which hasn't been San Jose's strong suit on its
struggling power play.
"We had a game plan, and we pretty much stuck to it all night
long,'' San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "I don't want to knock our
guys scoring six goals, but Arturs Irbe struggled a little bit.
There were a couple of those he'd probably like to have back.''
Sharks captain Owen Nolan's six-game goal-scoring streak was
snapped, but he played another solid two-way game. Nolan had scored
eight goals in San Jose's previous six games.
Mike Ricci extended his points streak to five games with an
assist on Stuart's goal. ... Carolina D David Tanabe missed his
second straight game with a shoulder injury. ... It was the only
meeting of the season between the teams. San Jose doesn't play in
Raleigh this season. ... Stuart missed the first 16 games of the
season in a contract dispute, and he missed eight games in January
with an ankle injury. He hadn't scored since Nov. 25. ... Former
San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent attended the game
with his two sons, who left the Sharks' dressing room with a bunch
of hockey sticks.