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Nabokov's solid performance not quite enough

by Dave Lozo /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Evgeni Nabokov stopped 38 of 40 shots on Sunday afternoon at HP Pavilion. Usually that's good enough for a victory and First Star honors, but the Sharks' goaltender came out on the losing end of a 2-1 decision against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

Only a long wrist shot through heavy traffic by Patrick Sharp in the second period and a one-time blast by Dustin Byfuglien late in the third period got past Nabokov, and it was enough to put San Jose in a 1-0 series hole.

It was all the Blackhawks needed thanks to the outstanding effort of goaltender Antti Niemi, who stopped 44 of 45 shots to put Nabokov squarely in his shadow.

After the game, Nabokov sat down at his locker and spoke to the gathered media:

Q: With Niemi playing as well he was at the other end, do you feel the pressure to match him save for save?

Nabokov: Honestly, it doesn't really matter who is playing on the other end. If you want to win, you have to match it or be better. You have to win for your team. That's all it is. I never looked at it that way. I was just hoping to make one more save than the other guy. But he played a great game. He was challenging the shooters. He played well.

Q: What happened on Sharp's goal? It looked like you were screened.

Nabokov: I was struggling to the find the puck. They were driving the net. I didn't see it. I just reacted after the puck went through my five-hole.

Q: What happened on Byfuglien's goal?

Nabokov: He just beat me clean. It was over the pad. He got it in a good spot. (Patrick) Kane made a great play out there and he one-timed it. It's kind of a quick play, so I tried to get there but I wasn't there on time.

Q: The Sharks have faced adversity in these playoffs and overcome it. Can they do it again?

Nabokov: That's playoffs. It's always about either overcoming the wins or overcoming the losses. You have to always get ready for the next game. If we were to win the next game, what are we going to talk about? The next game, we have to win it again. It's the same approach. The game plan doesn't change. We just have to stay on the course, maybe tweak a couple things. But it's up to the coaches, whatever they think we need to do. We're just going to follow the plan. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, the next game is important.

Q: Despite the loss, did you feel like your team played well?

Nabokov: I think it was a good game overall. They are a pretty skilled team, same as we are, and I thought it was a pretty good game. Both teams had momentum in the game, but they scored one more goal than us. So we just have to forget about it, go to practice tomorrow and get ready for Game 2.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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