SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was a year ago today that Patrick Marleau took a pass from Joe Thornton at 6:59 of the third period and scored what turned out to be the winning goal in Game 5 against Detroit at HP Pavilion, as the Sharks wrapped up their Western Conference Semifinal series.
The Sharks and Red Wings meet again tonight at HP in another Semifinal Game 5, with San Jose again holding a 3-1 series lead, and if Marleau scores, it will be his first goal of the series, as well as his first point.
Marleau owns the franchise record for career goals (47) and points (80) in the playoffs and has three career postseason hat tricks. He led the team in goals (37) and points (73) during the regular season. For the Sharks, there would be no better time than tonight for Marleau to get back to doing what he does best.
"He has to eventually hit the score sheet," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Sunday morning, after a team meeting and video session at HP Pavilion. "And he will. He's done some good things away from the puck in the faceoff circle, penalty kill. He's used his speed throughout the series to get to some loose pucks. But eventually -- he's got such a tremendous shot, we rely on him to score goals, and he'll get on the score sheet, and it will work in our favor."
Last year Marleau scored two game-winning goals in the semis against Detroit, including one in overtime in Game 3. He had those two goals as well as two assists in the series. This year, zip. But if the consistently stoic Marleau is concerned, he certainly didn't admit it Sunday morning.
"Nobody likes to (not) get on the board, but I've been doing some things that obviously help the team win," Marleau said. "Got to stick with it, and eventually it will come."
Devin Setoguchi, one of his linemates, said he's not worried about Marleau.
"Patty's numbers speak for themselves in the playoffs. He gets points," Setoguchi said. "It's like anything. If you just keep playing, keep going, you're going to get three, you're going to get four one night. That's just the way it is. He's been skating really well, and I think that's the main part of his game. So don't be surprised if he gets one tonight."
It would certainly help the Sharks' cause if Marleau struck early. They've been outscored 13-4 in the first period in the playoffs, and they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period of a 4-3 loss to Detroit in Game 4.
"I think the first period's going to be crucial for us, and we're really going to have to feed off our fans here," Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said. "We've got to come out hard in the first period and sort of just take away their will."
The Sharks' first-period struggles are still a mystery to defenseman Dan Boyle.
"Again, for whatever reason we've been outscored a lot in the first period, and I don't think it's from lack of being prepared," Boyle said. "For whatever reason we're just not putting the puck in the net, and it's in ours. Just looking for a strong start tonight. Controlled emotion. I think we're going to come out with a lot of energy, but we need to be smart with that energy and not get out of position, out of control."
The Sharks watched Saturday as Nashville went on the road to Vancouver and beat the Canucks on their home ice, forcing a Game 6. San Jose, obviously, wants to ends its series tonight and avoid another trip to Detroit.
"Yeah, we prefer to do that, but there's a mighty obstacle in the way, and that would be Detroit," McLellan said. "They're not going to go away. We're going to have to elevate our game a little bit. We're going to have to be better in a lot of areas, and we're going to have to push them. We know they're going to come out hard, they're going to have their push, their storm, if you will, and we have to respond appropriately."
"Nobody likes to play more games, especially when you're looking at a long flight there," Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood said. "You know they're tough in their building. They think they outplayed us both games in Detroit and we were fortunate to get the split. We want to finish them off tonight and get some rest."