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Evgeni Nabokov earns 43rd career shutout in Sharks' win over Avalanche @NHLdotcom

DENVER - Evgeni Nabokov stopped 31 shots for his 43rd career shutout, Milan Michalek scored two goals and the San Jose Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Tuesday night.

The Western Conference-leading Sharks won for the sixth time in seven games.

It was Nabokov's third shutout of the season, and first in just over a month. Patrick Marleau scored an empty-net goal with 37.2 seconds remaining.

Nabokov made several sensational saves, including one by the seat of his pants in the first period, thwarting Ryan Smyth's potential score by landing on top of the puck as he slowly drifted inside the net.

However, the puck never crossed the line, just a sprawled out Nabokov. The play was reviewed and the ruling of no goal upheld.

Smyth later crashed into the rear of the net, knocking the goal off its moorings and right onto Nabokov's back.

Even that didn't rattle Nabokov.

Claude Lemieux received a hardy ovation in his return to Colorado, not to mention a video tribute of his trademark big hits. Lemieux helped the team to a Stanley Cup title in 1996 and remains a fan favourite, his familiar Avalanche sweater popping up around the arena.

The 43-year-old Lemieux left the league after the 2003 playoffs with Dallas, but started a comeback with the Sharks' minor-league affiliate nearly two months ago. He was recalled to San Jose last week.

Known for his vicious hits, Lemieux was rather tame on Tuesday in his second game for San Jose. He checked Darcy Tucker into the boards, gave a stick tap to T.J. Hensick and had a bump on Jordan Leopold, but that's about it.

The Avalanche are in the midst of an eight-game homestand, but have lost three of four to begin the stretch.

Michalek scored in the first period on a power play, taking advantage of an Avalanche defender losing his stick. It's the eighth straight game the Avalanche have allowed a goal on the power play.

Rob Blake was back in the lineup against his former team after the defenceman missed two games with an upper body injury. Blake played in Colorado for five seasons, helping the team to a Stanley Cup title in 2001.

Blake had an assist on Michalek's goal in the second period.

The Avalanche activated Ian Laperriere from the injured reserve list before the game. The gritty forward has been out since leaving a Jan. 4 game with a back injury, missing the last eight contests.

David Jones made his return from a back injury, only to leave again in the second period with a shoulder ailment. Jones was knocked off his skates on a check by Alexei Semenov along the glass in the opening period.

Notes: San Jose recalled defencemen Derek Joslin and Mike Moore from the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League. Joslin won the hardest shot competition at the AHL All-Star game over the weekend, crushing a shot that registered 98.6 mph. ... Colorado recalled D Kyle Cumiskey from the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL. It's the fourth time he's been recalled this season. ... Avalanche F Paul Stastny (fractured forearm) has started skating again, but he's not due back for a few weeks.

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