SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—If the San Jose Sharks can survive while essentially playing 5-on-1 hockey, there’s no telling how far they can go in the postseason.
Joe Thornton scored the go-ahead goal moments after San Jose improbably killed a two-man disadvantage while two Sharks broke their sticks Monday night, and the Sharks rolled to their second straight 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in about 30 hours to open their second-round playoff series.
Tom Preissing also scored for the Sharks, who moved halfway to their second straight berth in the Western Conference finals with two tough wins over the Oilers, who must win four of the next five games to make their first semifinal appearance since 1992.
But afterward, everybody was still stunned by the effort of goalie Vesa Toskala, Scott Hannan, Mark Smith and Kyle McLaren, who managed to kill 101 seconds of a 5-on-3 disadvantage—even while Hannan and Smith broke their sticks in the process.
“That was the Black Knight from ‘Monty Python (and the Holy Grail)’,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said, referring to the movie villain who won’t stop fighting, even when all his limbs are comically severed. “Guys dropping, sticks breaking, pieces flying off. It was an unbelievable effort. I’ve never heard a crowd that loud.”
Game 3 is in Edmonton on Wednesday night.
Sergei Samsonov scored for Edmonton moments later, but Thornton put San Jose back ahead with a power-play goal, adeptly catching a missed shot and scoring in one fluid motion. Toskala made it stand up with 25 saves in the Sharks’ sixth consecutive playoff victory.
“That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on the ice,” Toskala said. “I saw like four pieces of sticks there, and that didn’t help the situation. But we got the kill. I guess we got a little lucky.”
Thornton’s goal stood up through a gritty third period, and the Sharks will be headed for Canada with a chance to take firm control of the series.
“We’re paying the price and producing the effort to win,” Thornton said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before I put one of my scoring chances in, but that penalty-kill was a big factor in this game.”
Dwayne Roloson stopped 36 shots for the eighth-seeded Oilers, but his teammates couldn’t bury any of their offensive chances for the second straight night. Edmonton’s frustrations stood out most on the 5-on-3 failure, of course.
“You should be able to get a tap-in when you get two guys with broken sticks like that,” Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger said. “They played it pretty well, and we had some great chances point-blank. We needed a bit more patience.”
Toskala made a handful of outstanding saves while the Sharks mostly succeeded in their efforts to keep Edmonton’s scorers away from the middle of the ice. He hasn’t lost since the first-round series opener in Nashville.
“By no means do we think we’re out of it,” Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff said. “We thought we played a game that was deserving of a win. We felt like the tide turned a little bit.”
Preissing scored after a goal-mouth scramble in the first period, with rookie Milan Michalek picking up his third assist of the series. Both clubs traded hits and checks with more urgency and speed than in Game 1, but San Jose failed to score during a 39-second 5-on-3 advantage.
But just a few seconds after San Jose’s remarkable 5-on-3 survival, Samsonov found the puck outside a scrum in front of San Jose’s net and popped it over Toskala for his second goal of the postseason.
The Russian forward’s goal diluted all the momentum—but Thornton, Samsonov’s longtime teammate in Boston, seemed to be waiting for just such a moment.
With Steve Staios off for interference about 2 minutes after Samsonov’s goal, Thornton caught Jonathan Cheechoo’s wide shot, dropped it to the ice and snapped it home before Roloson and Pronger could cover the net.
“We killed off a number of penalty-kills in the first (period) and then in the second,” Pronger said. “Eventually, it’s going to bite you. … We had a number of chances, but their goalie played well, and they played well defensively in keeping it to the outside.”
Edmonton played without C Radek Dvorak, who apparently injured his right knee when he ran into the boards late in Game 1. Coach Craig MacTavish said Dvorak could miss most of the series. … San Jose scratched C Alyn McCauley, who still has a leg injury. McCauley has played just one postseason game, and Thornton is wearing his “A” as an alternate captain. … Raffi Torres hit Michalek with a blindside check early in the second period, briefly sending the Czech rookie to the dressing room. Michalek had two assists in the opener.