Sharks still have bite

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Joe Thornton figured his first playoff run with the San Jose Sharks had been almost too easy. Two tough losses in Edmonton brought the big center back to postseason reality.

Yet the NHL scoring champion believes the Sharks can overcome those consecutive defeats to get back to the Western Conference finals, even though the Oilers head into Game 5 on tonight on a wave of momentum while San Jose is scrambling.

“That’s never in our heads, that we’re going to lose the series,” Thornton said Saturday. “You lose two games. So what? We’ve got to come out and win Game 5. You lose a couple, and you just get back on the horse.”

The fifth-seeded Sharks won the first two games of the series, both by 2-1 margins, while playing a tenacious, disciplined game. They lost both their discipline and tenacity just long enough in Edmonton for two defeats: A 3-2 triple-overtime heartbreaker in Game 3, followed by a 6-3 loss Friday night in which they blew a two-goal lead for the first time all season.

After winning six consecutive playoff games over the first two rounds, their best-of-seven series is even at two games apiece.

Wilson has resisted any urge to panic, sticking with Vesa Toskala in goal and preaching consistency to his club despite two disappointing results. After all, the Sharks had been nearly flawless in the postseason until Edmonton grabbed two wins at home. What’s more, Thornton hit the post in overtime of Game 3, then barely missed a chance to put San Jose up 4-1 in Game 4.

“Like Joe said after the game, we’re two posts away from this series maybe being over,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a pretty resilient group, and Edmonton is, too. It certainly seems like it’s going to be a home ice-type of a series, and we hope that’s true.”

San Jose held only a short practice Saturday. Game 6 is back in Edmonton on Wednesday night.

“I don’t think we’ve lost any confidence, because we were really close to winning both of those games,” defenseman Scott Hannan said. “We had a lead late in both of them. We had plenty of chances to win (Game 3) in overtime, and we could have been up 4-1 (in Game 4). We don’t lose any confidence because of that.”

AP-ES-05-13-06 2044EDT


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