Streaks on the line as Stanford takes on UConn

Streaks on the line as Stanford takes on UConn

Dec. 29, 2010UCONN (12-0) vs.STANFORD (8-2)STANFORD (AP) -- Top-ranked Connecticut owns the 90-game winning streak that started after a loss to Stanford in the 2008 NCAA semifinals. The Cardinal have their own impressive streak: 51 consecutive victories on their home floor in Maples Pavilion.On Thursday night, one of these long runs will go down. The nationally televised game that has been circled on so many calendars for months is finally here a rematch of last season's NCAA championship game between the top programs from each coast.Can Stanford (8-2) stop do-everything UConn star Maya Moore and Co. after coming so close in a 53-47 title game loss last April?REWIND: VanDerveer gets win No. 800The Huskies (12-0) are short-handed after key reserve guard Lorin Dixon sprained the top of her left foot coming down on a teammate's foot in practice Monday.Coach Geno Auriemma doesn't sound too confident that UConn will be able to match up so well this time with Stanford's athletic inside trio of Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Kayla Pedersen and Ogwumike's talented freshman sister, Chiney."The question for us probably will continue to be what can we get out of our post players?" Auriemma said after an 85-42 warmup rout of Pacific on Tuesday night in nearby Stockton.That was the Huskies' first game since they topped the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden's UCLA men's team from 1971-74 by beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62 on Dec. 21."(Without Dixon) it's going to be a huge problem because we can't get bigger," Auriemma said. "It's going to be very difficult for us to match up with them. We'll go in and we'll play and we'll see what happens."RELATED: Womens basketball page ScoreboardAuriemma knows his nine healthy players will be ready for the raucous crowd at sold-out, 7,329-seat Maples, where UConn will play for the first time since Dec. 28, 1993 a 94-75 Stanford win.Stanford already has played a brutal nonconference schedule this month, traveling to DePaul and Tennessee the Cardinal's two losses and beating No. 4 Xavier in a surprising 89-52 blowout Tuesday."Games like the one coming up are pretty easy to get up for," Moore said. "What better situation could a team want? A hostile environment, Stanford plays really well at home. They're ready to go. We're ready to go. It's going to be a battle. But that's exactly the kind of game what we want."So do the Cardinal, whose lone blemishes in a 36-2 run last season came at the hands of Connecticut."I felt like we really missed an opportunity," coach Tara VanDerveer said earlier this season of the championship loss.She said it fueled her to be a better coach and work harder, and did the same for her players. Most everybody, even the incoming freshmen, spent the summer together on campus training and playing pickup games."Our team will be focused. They will be ready. I know they will have a great effort and we will learn more about our team," VanDerveer said. "This is why we play these games, to really let us know where we're at. I tell our team, 'This is like the NCAA tournament.'"Moore, averaging 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.83 assists, can only imagine what this game means to her opponent not to mention the Huskies.STATS: Stanford UConn"It's super important. As a competitor you never want to lose," she said. "Putting myself in their shoes, you've got a good team, a team that you've met a lot, in championship games. It's going to be very loud. It's very important, especially on your home court, you've got the crowd behind you, you want to have a good game for your fans. It's going to be an intense atmosphere."Stanford, coming off its third straight trip to the Final Four, has been national runner-up in two of the last three years and hasn't won it all since 1992. The Cardinal lost to the two-time defending champion Huskies in the 2009 Final Four.VanDerveer, in her 25th season on The Farm, became the sixth women's coach to reach the 800 win mark last week. Stanford, going for its 11th straight Pac-10 Conference crown, is 2-0 against UConn at Maples. This marks the sixth meeting between the schools in three-plus seasons.The Cardinal haven't lost at home since a 68-61 upset by Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament in March 2007."We really just want to go out there, protect our home court, give people a good game, get the 'W' and show how much we're improving and show the country what we can do, too," senior guard Jeanette Pohlen said.

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for this second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams:
Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal:
After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup:
Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next:
The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.