The 34-year-old goalie rebounded nicely Saturday in the Sharks' 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion that secured a place in the Western Conference Finals.
Two nights after allowing five goals on nine shots and getting pulled before the second period, Nabokov stopped 33 of 34 shots -- including all seven against forward Johan Franzen, who scored four times in Game 4.
"I felt real good when I saw Nabby at the pregame skate this morning," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He was pretty focused and determined."
The sellout crowd of 17,562 appreciated Nabokov's work, chanting "Nab-by, Nab-by" several times during the course of the game.
"Maybe as a goalie you have a different mind because you try to forget what happened in the past," Nabokov said. "If you have a bad game as a team, you push it down and you say, ‘OK, I've got to come out and do my job better' -- as a group, not just one or two individuals.
"It's a team sport, so we have to be on the same page all the time. To beat this team, I think that's what we did."
Nabokov didn't have much action in the first period when the Red Wings were held to seven shots. But he stopped 13 of 14 second-period shots, seven of them on two power plays after defensemen Dan Boyle (tripping against Franzen) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (kneeing against Valtteri Filppula) took back-to-back penalties.
Nabokov made a nice save on Tomas Holmstrom's stab at the rebound of a Nicklas Lidstrom point shot with Boyle in the box. After Vlasic was penalized, Nabokov dropped to the ice to thwart Lidstrom's point shot, and he stopped Holmstrom again off a setup from Henrik Zetterberg.
"We took a couple penalties and they got the momentum," Nabokov said. "They were coming pretty hard, so the penalty kill did a good job. When we came to the third period, it was just a battle."
Nabokov turned aside all 14 shots he faced in the third period, and the desperate Red Wings were buzzing around his net in the final 5 1/2 minutes after Patrick Marleau scored to give the Sharks their 2-1 lead.
"After last game, you knew he was going to step up," center Joe Thornton said. "He played super. He probably won us this game. We'll probably go as far as Nabby takes us. He played great."
If Nabokov was nervous in the final minute, he didn't show it. The Red Wings already had pulled goalie Jimmy Howard for a sixth attacker when Boyle was penalized for holding Zetterberg, giving Detroit a six-on-four skating advantage.
"The last five minutes were probably the most exciting and most important minutes we've played in a long time," Nabokov said. "I'm happy as a group that we were able to get it done."
Nabokov sure did his part.
"He played extremely well," McLellan said. "That's probably about as simple as I can put it. He made some huge saves, especially on the penalty kill. They were moving the puck around pretty good."