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Sharks overcome slow start to beat Sabres 5-2

by John Kreiser

Evgeni Nabokov helped the San Jose Sharks weather the storm. Joe Pavelski and Jed Ortmeyer did the rest.

Pavelski's second goal of the night broke a 2-2 tie in the third period and Ortmeyer had the first two-goal game of his career as San Jose overcame a slow start and won its fifth in a row by beating the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 at the Shark Tank on Saturday night.

The Sharks won for the 16th time in 19 games despite being outshot 40-24 -- including 14-5 in a first period that saw the speedy Sabres dominate them completely.

"They peppered us in the first period, but Nabby made some great saves," said forward Dany Heatley, who reached the 30-goal mark by scoring late in the second period. "As the game went on, I thought we got stronger and got better."

Nabokov has allowed only eight goals in his past seven starts, playing his best hockey of the season with the Olympics just a couple of weeks away. After his first-period heroics, he helped kill a two-man advantage in the second period with help from a couple of shots that banged off posts. The crowd started chanting "Nabby! Nabby!" after an excellent glove save against former teammate Craig Rivet in the third period.

"We talk about it all the time. He gives us a chance to win every night and that's exactly what he did," forward Manny Malhotra said. "They outshot us pretty bad. Had it not been for him, it could have been pretty lopsided early on."

In a meeting between potential starting goaltenders at next month's Winter Olympics, Nabokov -- Russia's likely starter -- got the best of Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who's expected to get the call for Team USA.

Tim Connolly extended his points streak to 15 games with a first-period goal. But thanks to Nabokov, that was the Sabres' only goal despite their domination in the opening 20 minutes.

"We keep throwing pucks at him, kept trying to get those goals," defenseman Toni Lydman said. "But he was playing well."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan was very displeased with his team's play in the opening 20 minutes.

"I don't think we worked hard enough in the first period, not one bit," McLellan said. "We were beaten to loose pucks. We were out-battled, out-faceoffed. I basically had to talk to them as a team, get some feedback from them to see if they agreed or not."

Whatever he said worked. Malhotra forced Steve Montador into a turnover, then fed Pavelski for the tying goal at 2:07. Heatley put San Jose ahead when he deflected Joe Thornton's pass behind Miller at the 14-minute mark.

Jason Pominville tied the game 18 seconds into the third period, whipping a backhander from the lower left circle past Nabokov for a power-play goal -- the first one allowed by San Jose in their last 34 opportunities.

But Pavelski put San Jose ahead to stay at 6:41 when he tapped in a loose puck in the crease after Miller stopped Devin Setoguchi's shot but had the puck squeeze through his pads. It was his eighth career two-goal game.

Ortmeyer, who had never had a multi-goal game, got one when he fired home a quick pass from Ryane Clowe at 10:27 after Clowe and Scott Nichol freed the puck during a good forecheck, then hit the empty net with 60 seconds remaining.

The Sabres have lost three games in California in five days, also losing in Anaheim on Tuesday and in a shootout to Los Angeles on Thursday. Buffalo wraps up a season-high seven-game road trip Monday in Vancouver.

"We let the time hang around, and they didn't miss on their opportunities," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think we doubled up on our opportunities all night. We were disappointed that we didn't take advantage of them and we made a couple of mistakes."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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