Marleau scores a pair and Sharks win 4-1, extend winning streak to a season high four games

San Jose came out of the gates tonight with a ferocity usually reserved for your bowels after a big Thai meal.

They didn't let up all game.

Patrick Marleau scored for the first time in eleven games to put the game out of reach in the third period. Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton also scored for San Jose, meaning that the Sharks for the first time in awhile did not rely upon Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture to carry the offensive attack. Former Shark Ray Whitney also added a tally for Phoenix.

"I think we are finding more consistency within our lines. I think our D is more active in the offense," McLellan said when recalling the things that have gone right during the Sharks winning streak. "A lot of the things we whined and complained about in the beginning of the season are starting to come together with real good timing."

The HP Pavilion crowd, presumably loaded up on both types of holiday spirits, got into the game early as San Jose began to swarm. Early in the period Joe Pavelski connected with Devin Setoguchi in the slot, Jamie McGinn sent a shot through traffic that was dangerously redirected on net by Pavelski, and Logan Couture pounced on a rebound that he put just wide. It was refreshing to see San Jose come out ready to play from the start of the opening whistle considering it has been an area of their game that has troubled them this season.

Despite having three first period power plays, including a 5v3 that ran 1:48, the Sharks could not beat Phoenix goaltender Jason LaBarbera (who was filling in for the injured Ilya Bryzgalov). Recently acquired forward "Dammit Shoooot" received a hearty amount of cheers from the crowd during the early going, as HP Pavilion gave a warm welcome to a player that has quickly become a fan favorite.

"We're a veteran group. In Dallas we had a five on three opportunity and didn't connect, but we beared down and won the game on a power play in overtime," Captain Joe Thornton said in response to the Sharks struggles on the man advantage early in the game. "Being a veteran team you don't get discouraged. You know that you're going to get more chances as the game goes on, and we did."

As play carried into the second, and LaBarbera continued to stymie the Sharks, Phoenix managed to counterpunch and take the game's first lead. Shane Doan found Keith Yandle at the point who brilliantly faked a slapshot from above the circles, managing to find Razor Ray Whitney all alone in the Sharks zone after Niclas Wallin had vacated his area of responsibility. Phoenix would go on to take a 1-0 lead.

It wouldn't be enough.

The Sharks would continue to draw penalties, racking up a healthy 9:29 of man advantage time throughout the tilt. Phoenix was charged with a trio of delay of game penalties on the night-- according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the 10th time in NHL history that a team accounted for that many delay of games for pucks over the glass. One has to wonder how long a game of RISK would take the Coyotes to finish considering their fondness for stopping play.

"We took some unfortunate penalties. We took three that were shot over the glass against a team that is waiting for us to commit those," Phoenix Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They played a very strong game there. A heavy game. And when you take those penalties you limit your opportunities."

Nine minutes into the second period Dan Boyle helped San Jose to finally cash in on those opportunities.

Taking a feed from Patrick Marleau, Boyle found a shooting lane from high in the zone and wristed a shot past LaBarbera short side that just tucked inside the post. Shots were around 23-10 at that point in the game, and with San Jose carrying the play, that goal seemed to be the one that opened up the floodgates. A mere two minutes later Dany Heatley found Joe Thornton streaking towards to the net, sending a beautiful pass across the slot. Thornton made it count, punching the puck into the back of the net, and San Jose grabbed a lead they would not relinquish.

And in the third period, the HP Pavilion ice became center stage for the Patrick Marleau show.

Coming into the game in the midst of an eleven game scoreless streak, Marleau's troubles were apparent-- he had seen time on each of the three scoring lines for most of the last two weeks, bouncing around like a pinball in the San Jose lineup. The last three games had seen him improve his play, picking up assists and chipping away at what was a team worst -17, but the goals just didn't seem to be there. Reunited with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley for the majority of the night however, Marleau finally made his minutes count where they mattered most.

In the goal scoring department.

Marleau began his redemption early in the third. Joe Thornton had heeled a shot and sent the puck dribbling to the left of LaBarbera's net, but Marleau fought through a Derek Morris stick check to pounce on the loose rubber. One roofed backhander and a few enthusiastic fist pumps later, Marleau was back on the score sheet. And he didn't stop there.

With eight minutes remaining, and San Jose looking for the ever important insurance marker, Joe Thornton found a seam up the middle of the ice and sent a hard pass to the Coyotes blueline. With two quick strides Marleau found a hole and received the pass in stride, breaking into the zone with speed and rifling a wrist shot into the back of the Phoenix net. It was vintage Marleau-- a burst of speed, there's the trail of ice chips flying, pick a corner, red lights, revelry, sweet sweet revelry.

"You always want it to come sooner than later. It's nice that it came before the break," Marleau said. "You feel good after you get one and want to keep going, build off that. You kind of shut your brain off there [on the second goal off the rush] and make it work."

It was an excellent game from the Sharks tonight, one that saw them control the play from whistle to whistle, shift to shift. The blueline did an excellent job of keeping Phoenix to the outside of the zone, Niemi stopped everything he could see, and the top three lines were able to pin the Coyotes beneath the neutral zone with a strong forecheck. On some nights you blink and don't understand how the Sharks racked up the scoring totals that they did, but tonight San Jose earned all 39 of them that they put on net.

As well as a nice two day break before practicing on the 26th to face off against Los Angeles on Monday.

"I don't even want them to think about hockey," Todd McLellan said. "Family is very important an I want them to spend time with them. On the twenty sixth we'll try to start up the machine again and keep them going where we left off."

The same should be said for all of us at Fear The Fin.

Enjoy the glow of a four game winning streak, have a couple spiked ciders, and remember the words of Mitch Hedberg when he said a severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

Happy holidays everyone.

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