SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Jonathan Cheechoo got his first NHL penalty shot
under ideal circumstances: on fresh ice against a rookie goalie, with a home
crowd roaring encouragement.
To nobody's surprise, Cheechoo scored with his latest great move in a season
full of them.
Cheechoo scored twice in the third period, and Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves
in the Sharks' 4-2 victory over the road-weary Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday
Marco Sturm and Alyn McCauley scored first-period goals for the Pacific
Division-leading Sharks. San Jose returned from a six-game road trip for its
fourth victory in five games _ but it wasn't secure until Cheechoo's line
dominated the third period.
Cheechoo was pulled down by Anders Eriksson on a breakaway early in the
third, setting up the right wing's first penalty shot since he was 14 years
old. He chose a nifty backhand shot, easily beating Pascal Leclaire for his
``I wanted to freeze him, and the ice was good, so I could make the move I
wanted,'' Cheechoo said. ``I knew he might not be expecting that, and
everything worked out the way I thought it would. I don't get too many of those
in my life, so that was great.''
Cheechoo scored again with 3:18 to play on an exceptional pass from Mike
Ricci. He has four goals in his last four games, again providing a scoring
punch that's been a significant part of the Sharks' success in holding off
Dallas atop the division.
``He made a nice move,'' Sturm said. ``I thought he was going to go
top-shelf. That's what he always does in practice. ... We're loose, we're
having fun. That's why it's going like it is for us.''
While the Sharks enjoyed themselves, the Blue Jackets extended their road
winless streak to 11 games (0-8-3). Columbus hasn't won on the road since a 3-2
overtime victory at the Shark Tank on Jan. 8.
Rostislav Klesla and Eriksson scored for the Blue Jackets, who finished an
0-4 road trip with even more frustration for the Western Conference's
last-place team. There was bad news, too: Klesla didn't return after spraining
his wrist on a hard check from Scott Parker late in the second period.
``We had some momentum going, and we scored the second goal to make it a
close game,'' Columbus interim coach Gerard Gallant said. ``We didn't deserve
to be in it, don't get me wrong, but we still made it a close game.''
San Jose took 50 shots in a 2-1 victory at Columbus nine days earlier, but
this one was much more competitive. The Blue Jackets cut the lead to 3-2 on
Eriksson's goal midway through the third period before Cheechoo's second goal.
Lousy defense is the biggest culprit in Columbus' road woes. The Blue
Jackets have allowed 38 goals during their winless skid, and they repeatedly
left the Sharks untouched on their passes and shots.
Leclaire stopped 34 shots in the second NHL appearance for the Blue Jackets'
2001 first-round draft pick. With Fred Brathwaite due to return from a
conditioning assignment Tuesday, Leclaire is headed back to Syracuse of the
``These games I can use for experience,'' said Leclaire, who got a few
pointers from goaltending coach Rick Wamsley in the locker room. ``I can take
the experience and use it for learning. This was good for me. ... For about 10
minutes, I felt a little numb out there, but after that I started to see the
puck real well.''
Sturm extended his points streak to five games with a backhand power-play
goal late in the first period. He has six goals and five assists in the Sharks'
nine February games.