VANCOUVER - Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov kept his team alive with a heart-stopping save, then Joe Thornton put the Vancouver Canucks away with a goal and two assists in the third period to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 4-2 NHL victory Monday night.
Thornton and Joe Pavelski, on the power play, broke a 1-1 tie with goals 1:22 apart in the third. Jonathan Cheechoo helped seal the deal by collected his first points of the season with a goal and an assist as the Sharks scored three times in just over three minutes in the final period.
"We thought we were close to breaking through," said Thornton, who now has seven points in six games this season. "We were just throwing pucks at the net and working hard and getting chances."
It could have been a different outcome if not for an acrobatic Nabokov save in the second period. Vancouver's Daniel Sedin had an open net to shoot at but Nabokov made a diving save to stop the puck.
A frustrated Sedin slammed his stick on the boards afterwards.
"He kept us in the game and allowed us to win the game," said Thornton. "He's been playing great all year. That's just another highlight on the year for him to watch on TV."
Canucks captain Markus Naslund agreed it was a big save but said his team had plenty of other chances to score.
"If we had just kept on going and played in their end, eventually we're going to get chances and goals," he said.
"We had spurts where we played OK. But if you're a step behind, you're not going to win. If we're going to take penalties, we're not going to get scoring chances."
It was the second time in six games the Sharks beat Vancouver. Tempers flared near the end of the game with players pushing and shoving in front of the Canucks' bench.
Vancouver's Matt Cooke was assessed a game misconduct for leaving the bench, which could result in a suspension.
Cheechoo said it was a relief to finally get on the scoresheet.
"I've been getting a lot of chances but haven't been able to put it in the net," he said. "It's nice to get that first one out of the way."
Steve Bernier also scored a power play goal for San Jose, who outshot Vancouver 34-26.
Taylor Pyatt and Henrik Sedin scored power-play goals for the Canucks, who saw a two-game winning streak end.
"We got into penalty trouble and lost momentum and didn't have a lot of scoring chances after that," said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We did a good job on them in the first half of the game. After that we started giving them time and space."
The Canucks' slide started when Cooke was given a roughing penalty early in the third.
It took Pavelski just six seconds into the power play to tuck the rebound of a Craig Rivet shot past Luongo.
Thornton made it 3-1 when he used his reach to put the puck past the feet of a sprawled Luongo.
The win improved the Sharks record to 3-2-1. The loss, before a sellout crowd of 18,630, dropped Vancouver's record to 3-3-0.
After a scoreless first period, the teams exchanged power-play goals in the second.
Vancouver enjoyed four first-period power plays, including a two-man advantage for 44 seconds, but couldn't score and mustered just eight shots on net.
San Jose finally paid the price for their string of penalties when the Sharks were called for too many men early in the second.
Brad Isbister was the catalyst for the scoring play, firing a rocket of a shot that hit the post. The rebound hit Pyatt's skate and went into the net.
The Sharks argued the puck was kicked in but the goal stood after being reviewed.
Bernier tied the game at 14:52 while Vancouver was playing with defencemen Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell both serving penalties.
San Jose captain Patrick Marleau sprung Bernier on a breakaway when he feathered a pretty pass between defencemen Aaron Miller and Mike Weaver. Bernier skated in alone, then slid the puck under Luongo for his first goal of the season.
Nabokov earned an assist on the play.
Notes-Cooke returned to the Canucks' lineup after being a healthy scratch Saturday night against Edmonton. ...Vancouver forward Jeff Cowan is expected to miss a week with a hip flexor injury he suffered in a fight against the Oilers' Zack Stortini with just five seconds gone in Saturday's game. ...The Canucks recalled defenceman Alex Edler on Monday to replace Lukas Krajicek, who is out with a foot injury.