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 5 1/2 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’sprevious 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 leftthe Sharks’ dressing room with a bunch of hockey sticks.