SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Though the San Jose Sharks burst out of their
offensive doldrums in 19 thrilling minutes, their defensive slump lingered _
and that's not good enough for the team leaders.
Nils Ekman had a goal and two assists during a wild second period, and the
Sharks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over the New York
Islanders on Thursday night.
Jonathan Cheechoo scored two goals for the Sharks, who chased goalie Rick
DiPietro with five goals in 19 minutes spanning the second and third periods.
San Jose expanded its Pacific Division lead over Dallas to three points by
finally breaking out of its slump _ at least on offense.
The Sharks had lost their previous three games by a combined score of 13-4 _
and goalie Evgeni Nabokov remained stuck in a rut, yielding two terribly soft
goals. But the Sharks blamed themselves, not their goalie.
``It's not good enough,'' said defenseman Kyle McLaren, who returned after
missing six games because of a deep cut on his forehead. ``We won tonight, but
41 shots (allowed), four goals, that's not us.
``For us to do some damage over the next four weeks and beyond, we have to
get back to where we were. It's too much to ask of our goaltender.''
San Jose's offense finally showed signs of life after the loss of
second-leading scorer Marco Sturm to a broken ankle last week. Alex Korolyuk
and Alyn McCauley each had a goal and an assist in San Jose's ninth home
victory in 10 games.
``We've given up 20 goals in the last five games, and that's way too much
for my taste,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. ``Although the shot chart didn't
show it, I thought we were a lot more stable on defense.''
Wilson is determined to let Nabokov play his way out of his slump. The
goalie stopped 37 shots, but he has allowed at least three goals in each of his
last five games.
Cliff Ronning scored two goals for the Islanders, who contributed three of
the seven goals scored in the second period. Michael Peca and Arron Asham also
scored as New York's winless streak reached six games (0-3-1-2) despite
outshooting San Jose 41-28.
The Islanders' lead over Buffalo has dropped to four points in the race for
the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Each team has 12 games remaining _
and coach Steve Stirling can't decide whether to blame the defense or the
goaltending for his club's slump.
``It was both,'' he said. ``Goaltending had to be better, and it wasn't
tonight _ and we made a couple of glaring mistakes. There were a lot of
risk-reward situations, and at times, the risks did not outweigh the reward.''
After a scoreless first period, seven goals were scored in the first 15
minutes of the second. San Jose got three goals in seven minutes _ the first on
Korolyuk's long slap shot and the third on Cheechoo's deflection of Brad
Stuart's shot for his 20th goal.
The Islanders even thought they had another goal early in the second period,
but Peca was called for goaltender interference just as the shot went in the
``You can't give up five goals on the road and expect to win hockey games,''
Peca said. ``It's just not going to happen, and as a result, we got what we
When Ronning got his second goal of the period with 5:28 to play, both
goalies appeared to be completely discombobulated. Nabokov faced 29 shots in
the first two periods, and DiPietro allowed four goals on seven shots in the
second _ though two were mostly attributable to defensive lapses.
When Cheechoo scored his second goal on a wraparound two minutes into the
third _ again set up by the Islanders' poor defense _ Stirling had mercy on
DiPietro, replacing him with Garth Snow.
DiPietro refused to speak to reporters after the game.