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http://www.nhl.com/ice/recap.htm?id=2008020043

Sharks 5, Blue Jackets 2

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Patrick Marleau isn't waiting until after the trade deadline this time to play his best hockey for the unbeaten San Jose Sharks.

Marleau scored two goals, Evgeni Nabokov made 31 saves and the Sharks kept new coach Todd McLellan perfect through four games with a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

Jonathan Cheechoo had one of San Jose's two short-handed goals, and Milan Michalek had a power-play score while the Sharks overcame two early deficits. A three-goal flurry in the second period and two more quick scores in the third overwhelmed the Columbus defense and goalie Pascal Leclaire, who made 19 saves before getting yanked.

After allowing two early power-play goals by the Blue Jackets, the Sharks thrived on special teams with ample help from Marleau, who has four points in four games while excelling as a penalty killer and forechecker. The San Jose captain scored the go-ahead goal on his own rebound in the second period before adding another short-handed score in the third.

It's nothing like Marleau's struggles in the 2007 postseason or his painfully slow start to last season, when rampant trade rumors and his timid play compounded to cause a slump that didn't end until the trade deadline passed.

"I think he's got his full confidence back," said Mike Grier, who stole a puck and fed Marleau for his short-handed goal in the third period. "When you've got his talent and his skill, it's only a matter of time. He took some unfair criticism last year, and when people say things about you, it takes a toll."

Marleau, who has four points in four games, shrugs off any analysis of his mental state in the laid-back, Saskatchewan-farm-boy style that masks his competitive vibe.

"It's nice to get those (goals), but 4-0 is a pretty good feeling right now," said Marleau, the team's career scoring leader. "It's a good feeling in the room here. As a team, it just goes to show that everybody is kind of buying in here. We still have to work on it and build off it, but it's definitely a great feeling."

The Sharks are off to the best start in franchise history, but it's far too early to impress McLellan, the first NHL coach to go 4-0 to start his debut season since Peter Laviolette did it with the New York Islanders in 2001. San Jose has outscored its first four opponents 13-4.

"There are a whole lot of teams that are going to have four-game winning streaks," McLellan said. "Ours just happened at the start of the year."

Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored and Joe Thornton had two assists in San Jose's fourth straight win over the Blue Jackets, who finished a season-opening three-game road trip with two losses. Columbus has won just once in 15 tries at the Shark Tank in franchise history.

Kristian Huselius and Christian Backman scored power-play goals for the Blue Jackets, who doubled the total number of goals scored against the Sharks this season, but made too many elementary mistakes on defense against the Sharks' talented forwards.

"Those mistakes will cost you every time against a good team like San Jose," Huselius said. "Other than the short-handed goals, I thought we played well. It was a lack of communication for us to allow those short-handed goals. That's going to happen. We had more shots and more chances than they did, but we made too many mistakes."

Just 77 seconds after Michalek scored on a shot that ricocheted off Columbus' Mike Commodore in the second period, Marleau followed his own shot through Columbus' defensive disarray and easily slid it past Leclaire for his first goal of the season.

Shortly after Marleau's second goal, Thornton stole a sloppy Columbus exchange behind its own net and got the puck to Vlasic in front for his first goal. The Blue Jackets then pulled Leclaire for Fredrik Norrena, who got his first action of the season.

"We didn't communicate very well," Leclaire said. "It happened too many times tonight. It's no biggie. We'll bounce back and forget about this one. There are just too many games in a season to worry about this one."

Notes: Jeremy Roenick, the Sharks' 38-year-old center, got into a dustup in the closing minutes with Columbus' 21-year-old rookie Derek Dorsett, who was in his second NHL game. Both got misconduct penalties. ... Columbus C Michael Peca missed his second game under indefinite suspension after bumping an official in the opener against Dallas. ... The Jackets finally will get their home opener Friday night against Nashville.
The team looks great. 10 points from our defense in the 4 games played. Vlasic has been everything a shutdown Dman should be, while starting to chip in on offense. His play looks unremarkable. Much like a certain Norris winner we all know named Lidstrom, but he gets the job done.

Cheechoo is leading the team in goals scoring, despite playing on the second line with Michalek and Pavelski.

5 Sharks right now are PPG players, and Pavelski, despite having less points, has consistently been a threat all over the ice.
 

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The Sharks are sure to improve with a guy like McLellan behind the bench. The question is, will everyone still buy in to all the work when they sit 10 games up in their division? Marleau, Thornton and company are accostumed to winning. But they are not accustomed to the work in practice and in games that McLellan will demand.

Honestly, the problems with the Sharks have always been Dman contribution and work ethic. They have all the pieces they need to be very, very good. I'm not sure their dmen are the best in the world, but they certainly can handle the puck and that will help.
 

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The Sharks are sure to improve with a guy like McLellan behind the bench. The question is, will everyone still buy in to all the work when they sit 10 games up in their division? Marleau, Thornton and company are accostumed to winning. But they are not accustomed to the work in practice and in games that McLellan will demand.

Honestly, the problems with the Sharks have always been Dman contribution and work ethic. They have all the pieces they need to be very, very good. I'm not sure their dmen are the best in the world, but they certainly can handle the puck and that will help.
Well, to be fair to their Dmen, their contributions offensively were extremely limited under Wilson. They were expected to powertrap and stay back and not jump into the play.

Under McLellan, using the Detroit Red wings more powerful scoring style, the Dmen have been jumping into the play and All are now scoring instead of standing still.

Boyle, Vlasic and Ehrhoff all have 5 points in 6 games, an Blake, while he only has 2 points, has been a tremendous help in teaching Vlasic and Ehrhoff how to use their shots.

Marleau, Thornton and company are well accustomed to what McLellan will demand. Wilson was a pretty terrible coach who tried to embarrass rather than encourage players, and the whole team hated him and would not feel the necessity of giving him 100% effort
 
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