SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Early in the first period, Nils Ekman scored thanks
to John-Michael Liles' defensive mistake. Two periods later, Liles scored on
The final score stayed even, thanks to two goaltenders who didn't make any
mistakes in the final minutes.
Ekman had the first two-goal game of his career for San Jose, but the
Colorado Avalanche rallied in the third period for a 2-2 tie with the Sharks on
Liles tied it with a rebound goal midway through the third period. Rob Blake
also scored for the Avalanche, who have lost in regulation just twice in their
last 15 games despite two indifferent periods.
"They played good for seven minutes, that's it," Sharks coach Ron Wilson
said. "We played good for the whole rest of the game. That's the kind of
effort you hope for."
Vesa Toskala made 25 saves for the Sharks, who got a point for the ninth
time in 10 games. The Sharks lead the NHL with nine ties, and this one felt
good despite their late struggles.
Liles' shoddy defense against Ekman's short-handed charge led to San Jose's
first goal, but the rookie defenseman was left alone in the slot midway through
the third period when Ekman failed to cover him. Liles put a rebound of Joe
Sakic's shot past Toskala for his second career goal.
The Avalanche dominated the final minutes of regulation, but Toskala made a
series of remarkable saves to keep San Jose safe. Sakic nearly got a breakaway
in the final seconds of overtime, but Scott Hannan dove to knock away the puck.
"We dig ourselves a 2-0 hole, and sometimes it takes you 50 or 60 minutes
to get back into it," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "We didn't play great
the first 40 minutes, but we stuck around to salvage a point out of it. Once we
fell behind, David (Aebischer) made some big saves for us."
Aebischer, who also made 25 saves, was at his best in the second period. He
stemmed a prolonged push by the Sharks, stopping several flurries and leaping
to cover up a puck during a scramble.
"I thought both goalies played very well," Sakic said. "We had a good
first period. We were just down 2-0. We battled back again, and that's a good
Toskala has been outstanding in relief of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov,
going 4-0-3 with a 1.77 goals-against average in November.
"He hasn't made many mistakes since he's had the opportunity to play, and
he's been great," Wilson said.
Though the third-period struggles were disappointing, San Jose's surprising
surge continued with a good effort against a perennial powerhouse. The Sharks
are 5-1-3-1 in their 10 games since a 3-2 loss to Colorado on Nov. 11.
Ekman scored just 3:42 into the game, easily shoving past Liles to put Wayne
Primeau's shot into an open net.
Ekman scored again eight minutes later, skating alone up the right side and
beating Aebischer cleanly between the pads for his sixth goal of the year.
"I was trying to surprise him -- skating up, trying not to show him I was
going to shoot the puck," Ekman said. "Sometimes it works."
Ekman has been a revelation for the Sharks, who acquired him from the New
York Rangers last July in a swap of minor leaguers. Ekman scored nine goals
with Tampa Bay in the 2000-01 season, but after a year with Djurgarden in his
native Sweden, he spent all of last season with the Rangers' top affiliate in
Teemu Selanne, who scored the winning goal in his return to San Jose last
month, assisted on Blake's goal and absorbed a series of hard hits by
defenseman Kyle McLaren. The Finnish Flash was booed constantly, but without
the same vigor of last month.