Thornton, Sharks spoil Roloson's Oilers debut

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Just when the San Jose Sharks' season
was looking awfully stagnant, two rookies and a new Finnish forward
provided a big gust of fresh air.

Steve Bernier scored two third-period goals, fellow rookie Milan
Michalek had a goal and two assists, and the Sharks began a vital
six-game homestand with a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on
Thursday night.

After a winless three-game road trip, the Sharks were teetering
on the edge of irrelevance, eight points out of the playoff race in
their disappointing season. But Bernier, Michalek and new
acquisition Ville Nieminen provided the toughness and timely
scoring necessary to keep San Jose from blowing a big game against
the team it's chasing for the final playoff spot.

"We knew this one would be a big swing, and that's why it was
so important," said goalie Vesa Toskala, who made 19 saves. "It
was a four-point game. Now we're not that far back."

Joe Thornton scored the tiebreaking goal and got his NHL-leading
65th assist for the Sharks, who spoiled the debut of new Edmonton
goalie Dwayne Roloson with their fourth straight home victory.

Captain Patrick Marleau matched his career high with his 28th
goal of the season and added two assists for the Sharks, while
Nieminen landed a series of crowd-pleasing checks in an impressive
debut after his arrival in a trade with the Rangers. But Bernier
and Michalek provided much of the scoring while playing alongside
San Jose's captain.

"The young guys with the way they're competing, they're really
hungry, and that's what you need at this point in the season,"
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Not guys who are afraid to fail,
but guys that go out there and compete really hard."

With a strong third period, the Sharks jumped over Minnesota for
10th place in the Western Conference, six points behind the
eighth-place Oilers.

"It would have been an awful situation for ourselves had we let
this one slip away," Wilson said. "We've got a great homestand,
and if we win our games, we'll be right in the middle of it."

After Raffi Torres tied it for Edmonton late in the second
period, Thornton slapped home a pass from Jonathan Cheechoo just 11
seconds into the third. Bernier got his third goal of the season
moments later, then scored again on another pass from Marleau with
2:46 to play.

"It's fun to win, but when you score two goals, your confidence
goes way up," Bernier said of his first career multigoal game.

Roloson, with his colorful Minnesota pads now painted as white
as his generic mask, stopped 26 shots for the Oilers, who acquired
the former All-Star from the Wild on Wednesday. But the Oilers'
defense lapsed in front of him several times in San Jose's first
victory over Edmonton in four tries this season.

"He was one of the only solid guys out there," Edmonton coach
Craig MacTavish said of Roloson. "We were sloppy, to say the
least. We needed a tennis racket to keep the puck in play. It was a
game of ping-pong."

Jarrett Stoll also scored for the Oilers, who got little
immediate benefit from their two significant moves before the
deadline. Edmonton acquired Roloson from Minnesota to shore up its
weak goaltending, then picked up forward Sergei Samsonov from
Boston in a deal including Marty Reasoner. Samsonov didn't play.

"I felt all right, (but) it's been a while since I played,"
Roloson said. "I felt shaky, especially on rebounds and scrambles.
Those got me."

Nieminen, acquired for a third-round draft pick Wednesday,
wasted no time ingratiating himself with the Shark Tank fans. The
highlight of a rough-and-tumble night was a second-period sequence
in which he flattened Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff and blocked a
shot, earning a loud ovation.

Game notes
Thornton has 90 points, second in the NHL behind Jaromir
Jagr's 92. ... Sharks G Evgeni Nabokov didn't dress because of an
abdominal bruise from blocking a shot with his stomach Tuesday at
Anaheim. Nolan Schaefer, recalled from the AHL before the game, was
Toskala's backup. ... Earlier Thursday, San Jose traded slumping RW
Niko Dimitrakos to Philadelphia for a third-round pick.