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Sharks' future takes center stage in finale

4/6/2003

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Niko Dimitrakos wasn't thinking about
the San Jose Sharks' lost season. The talented rookie was thinking
ahead to next fall.

Unfortunately for Dimitrakos, so was veteran Phoenix goalie Sean
Burke.

Dimitrakos scored his second goal with 7:40 left as the Sharks
rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period for a 3-3 tie
with the Coyotes on Sunday.

Led by Dimitrakos and several other youngsters trying to make a
positive impression on San Jose's coaching staff, the Sharks
dominated play in the final two periods and overtime of their
season finale.

But Burke, who missed 56 games with various injuries, made 41
saves as the Coyotes finished their season with a three-game
unbeaten streak.

"At this point, it was all about showing what you can do for
the future,'' Dimitrakos said. "We gave it a great effort, because
a lot of the guys out there still haven't proved themselves in the
NHL.''

The Sharks and the Coyotes faced each other in the first round
of last year's playoffs, but both are headed home early this spring
after disappointing seasons. Several players likely to play big
roles in their franchises' future had solid games in the finale.

Burke stopped three point-blank scoring chances for Marco Sturm
and Alyn McCauley with a minute to play, and Phoenix killed San
Jose's four-minute power play that began shortly before regulation
ended. Burke said the final result was a good stepping stone for
what's sure to be a busy offseason for both teams.

"(The game) didn't mean much, and I think there was a lack of
intensity on both teams' part,'' Burke said. "For the last two
periods, we kind of sat back. When you have young guys in the
lineup who are trying to make a name for themselves, they're going
to play hard, and they definitely did that.''

Daymond Langkow, Paul Mara and Ladislav Nagy scored in the first
period for the Coyotes.

McCauley also scored for the Sharks, who finished the most
disappointing season in franchise history with a five-game winless
streak. Most hockey observers expected San Jose to contend for the
Stanley Cup. Instead, the Sharks' streak of five straight playoff
trips ended.

"If you're a real good team, you don't fall off the map like
this,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We as an organization might
have needed this kick in the head.

"We have to just learn from the past and start preparing for
next season, starting tomorrow. Guys have to focus on what went
wrong, and improving it. The excuses that many people believed in
or were a part of this year -- they won't be a part of it next
year.''

The Coyotes also failed to reach expectations, but their drop
wasn't as precipitous or inexplicable as the Sharks' failures,
given their injury problems. What's more, Phoenix should get a
boost next season by moving into a new suburban arena.

"I know the circumstances we've gone through as a group,''
Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. "I know the players tried to
respond, for the most part. All you can ask is for the players that
you do have to work hard and give yourselves a chance.''

Dimitrakos, who also scored in the first, tied it by carrying
the puck from the corner to the front of the net and beating Burke
on his own rebound during a power play.

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 22 shots but remained winless since Feb.
27. The Sharks' cornerstone goalie, who won the Calder Trophy two
years ago, finished his disastrous holdout-shortened season with a
19-28-8 record.

Langkow and Mara scored near the San Jose net during the
Coyotes' three-goal first.

Nagy put the Coyotes up 3-1 when Vincent Damphousse's clearing
attempt hit a seam in the glass and ricocheted back toward the
Sharks' net, leaving Nagy alone to score an unassisted wraparound
goal.

McCauley, acquired from Toronto last month in the trade of Owen
Nolan, cut the Coyotes' lead with 11 minutes left, scoring on a
rebound during a power play. McCauley also got the assist on
Dimitrakos' game-tying goal for his 25th point of the season -- a
new career-high.

Game notes
Teemu Selanne was named the Sharks' player of the year, and
defenseman Jim Fahey was named their rookie of the year. ... The
door to the home penalty box apparently came off its hinges in the
first period, causing a five-minute delay. ... Langkow has 47 goals
in two seasons with Phoenix after scoring just 68 goals in his
first five NHL seasons with Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. He was one
of three Coyotes to play in all 82 games, joining Mike Johnson and
Shane Doan. ... Six Sharks played in all 82 games: Mike Rathje,
Selanne, Adam Graves, Patrick Marleau, Sturm and Damphousse.