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Banged-up Sharks pull out big win

by Brian Hunter
Despite being the Western Conference leaders, life hasn't exactly been easy lately for the San Jose Sharks.

The team carried a three-game road losing streak into Monday night's action and had to add captain Patrick Marleau to its list of walking wounded after he suffered a lower-body injury over the weekend.

But the Sharks didn't ascend to the No. 1 seed without gutting out their fair share of victories, and they showed their moxie again in a building where they've had little success in recent years.

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 shots and Joe Thornton assisted on both goals as San Jose became the first team to 50 wins this season, topping the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Sharks also increased their lead to four points over Detroit in the race for the President's Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Each team has six regular-season games remaining.

"Anytime you don't have nine players, you want the other guys to step up and play well," Nabokov said. "Our system has changed a little bit, we're not as aggressive and we have to be a little bit smarter, and in a way, I think it's helped us."

Jonathan Cheechoo scored midway through the second period to snap a 1-1 tie and lift the Sharks to only their third win in a dozen trips to Calgary. Defenseman Dan Boyle opened the offense with his first goal in 22 games.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla had their only goal. Calgary lost for the eighth time in 12 games and stayed just one point ahead of Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead, with the Canucks holding a game in hand.

"It wasn't for lack of effort tonight or for playing poorly," Iginla said. "Unfortunately, we just didn't get the win tonight. We'd like to get a few mores shots. I thought we had a pretty fair amount of good scoring chances, even in the third. Unfortunately they didn't go in to night."

Miikka Kiprusoff made 15 saves and came up empty in his bid for an NHL-leading 44th victory. Kiprusoff is five wins short of Martin Brodeur's single-season record of 48 wins with six games left on the Flames' schedule.

In addition to Marleau, the Sharks continue to play without defenseman Rob Blake and forwards Ryane Clowe and Marcel Goc, but they got Cheechoo back after a two-game absence and he provided the margin of victory by deflecting a Brad Lukowich slap shot from the blue line past Kiprusoff with 7:36 left in the second.

"We have a lot of new faces in here but what can you say, the depth of this organization is pretty strong," Boyle said.

Boyle, who hadn't found the back of the net since a Feb. 13 game in Buffalo, scored his 15th of the season during a prolonged 5-on-3 advantage for the Sharks in the first. Craig Conroy and Adrian Aucoin had taken penalties three seconds apart for the Flames, and Boyle made them pay by taking Thornton's centering pass and ripping a shot into the top corner at the 6:11 mark.

Iginla tied the score with 4:51 left in the period, snapping a shot past Nabokov following a Daymond Langkow feed from the faceoff dot.

It's definitely a game we would have liked to have had a better outcome on," said Flames winger Curtis Glencross. "We've got to get right back to work and keep our heads up."

Coyotes 6, Stars 5 (OT) | Video

Dallas moved a step closer to playoff elimination, as Petr Prucha's power-play goal 53 seconds into overtime led Phoenix to victory at Arena.

Darryl Sydor scored with 57.4 seconds left in regulation as the Stars gained a point, but they still lost their seventh in a row and find themselves seven points out of playoff spot with just six games remaining.

"Penalties put you behind the eight ball," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "Those are the things you do to shoot yourself in the foot and we have enough holes in our feet already."

Prucha, who also assisted on a pair of goals, needed just 16 seconds after Andrew Hutchinson's tripping penalty to convert a cross-crease pass from Shane Doan past Tobias Stephan.

"It was a great play by Doaner," said Prucha, acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline. "He passed me to the open net and I had the easy job."

Scottie Upshall and Enver Lisin each scored a pair of goals and Doan also tallied for the Coyotes, who won despite allowing leads of 2-1, 4-2 and 5-3 to slip away.

Brendan Morrison, Hutchinson, Loui Eriksson and Chris Conner had the other goals for Dallas, which equaled the franchise's longest worst skid since the Minnesota North Stars also lost seven straight from Nov. 30-Dec. 12, 1989. Stephan made 27 saves as the Stars gave Marty Turco a rare night off following 13 consecutive starts.

"There's just a little thing missing from my game right now," Stephan said. "I'm always right there but if just a little quicker or in better position and I make the save. I think I'm really close but not quite there."

Upshall's second goal of the night with 8:02 remaining restored a two-goal lead for the Coyotes, but the Stars stormed back. Conner made it 5-4 on a breakaway with 5:26 left, then Sydor beat Ilya Bryzgalov from the right side with Stephan on the bench for an extra attacker, knotting the score.

"I thought we played a really solid hockey game for about 55 minutes," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said.

Morrison gave Dallas its only lead of the night when he opened the scoring 2:04 into the first. His wrist shot over Bryzgalov's right shoulder ended a 127-minute shutout streak the goalie had against the Stars entering the game.

Phoenix rallied for a 2-1 lead by the end of 20 minutes as Upshall flipped a wrist shot past Stephan for a power-play goal at 7:54 and Lisin celebrated his return to the lineup after a nine-game absence by taking a forehand shot that bounced off a defender's stick and into the net with 7:44 left.

"It was very nice getting back in the lineup," Lisin said. "It (being scratched) is part of the job. It's not the first time. You just have to a professional, practice hard and wait for your chance."

Hutchinson temporarily drew the Stars even with his second of the season 1:16 into the middle period, but Doan got the lead back for the Coyotes 31 seconds later on a knuckling one-timer and Lisin's second of the game at the 4:32 mark made it 4-2 Phoenix. Erikkson got one back for Dallas, scoring his team-leading 34th on a power play 4:49 before intermission.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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