GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ After handling a few shots, San Jose goalie Vesa
Toskala could tell he was on.
``Different days you have different feelings, and today after a couple of
saves I realized I was seeing the puck really well,'' Toskala said about his
30-save effort in a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night.
The Sharks moved closer to winning the Pacific Division crown on the
strength of Toskala's first shutout in nearly a year.
Vincent Damphousse had a goal and an assist, and the Sharks opened a
five-point lead over idle Dallas in the division race with their 40th victory.
With 98 points, San Jose is one point shy of the franchise record set in
Jonathan Cheechoo and Nils Ekman also scored for Sharks, who have earned 15
points in their last nine games (7-1-1).
``I'm just getting the chances, getting the bounces,'' said Cheechoo, who
scored his ninth game-winning goal 2:17 into the first period. ``The guys have
been finding me wide open, so all I had to do was shoot the puck a bunch of
Toskala's last shutout was March 27, 2003, against Detroit. He and No. 1
goalie Evgeni Nabokov combined for three against the Coyotes this season _
Nabokov beat them 5-0 on Nov. 21 and again Feb. 5.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said the game was easy to coach _ all he had to do
was remind the team about blowing a 2-0 lead Thursday night against Calgary
before Damphousse scored with seconds left to give the Sharks the win.
``It could have gone to 2-2 the way we played the last six or seven minutes
of the second period,'' Wilson said. ``So that's all I had to talk about was
last night. Our play was sloppy at the end of the second period. Third period,
we played on the defensive side of the puck.
``We forced them to have to play through us, which is what you have to do in
a 2-0 game.''
Phoenix's Brian Boucher stopped 23 shots _ hardly enough to break his slump.
Boucher hasn't won in 13 starts (0-10-3) since Feb. 14 and is 3-16-6 since he
got the last of his modern-era record five straight shutouts on Jan. 9.
And nobody in net for Phoenix is getting much scoring support. Calgary beat
the Coyotes 4-0 Wednesday _ the second time this season they have been blanked
in back-to-back games.
Coach Rick Bowness said his team may be able to learn from the Sharks, who
missed the playoffs last season after setting team records for victories and
points the year before.
``They suffered last year what we're suffering right now, but they did a
very good job rebuilding their team, so it can be done,'' Bowness said.
Cheechoo scored his 28th goal _ second among second-year players to
Columbus' Rick Nash _ on a power play. Cheechoo swept the rebound of his first
shot past Boucher's glove side after Damphousse circled behind and flicked the
puck in front of the crease.
Ekman, who had 11 goals in parts of two NHL seasons before the Sharks
acquired him from the New York Rangers last summer, got his 21st goal and
second in as many games when he redirected a pass from Tom Preissing 3:26 into
Damphousse capped the scoring with 4:45 left in the game with some flashy
stickhandling after Phoenix's Matthew Spiller gave up the puck near the Coyotes
Coming out of the neutral zone, Damphousse deked right and went left to get
past defenseman Derek Morris, then flicked the puck underneath the crossbar.