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Sharks rally to beat Canadiens 3-2

by John Kreiser

The Montreal Canadiens still haven't won in San Jose this century. Not that they didn't come close.

The Sharks tied the game on Dany Heatley's power-play goal with 7:28 left in regulation and went ahead when Manny Malhotra scored with 4:55 remaining as they beat the Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night.

Malhotra's one-timer from the slot off a pass by Torrey Mitchell beat Carey Price, ended the Sharks' first two-game regulation losing streak of the season and moved them back into first place in the West with 91 points, two ahead of Chicago. The Hawks have a game in hand.

It was the Canadiens' fifth loss in a row at the Shark Tank, where they haven't won since Nov. 23, 1999. Montreal made only its second trip to San Jose in six years.

"It was pretty frustrating," said center Scott Gomez, who had a goal and an assist. "We had a chance to take two points. Carey held us in there and they just got one by there at the end. We know we can play with anyone. That's a great team over there."

The Sharks won despite a 37-save performance by Price and 27 blocked shots by Montreal. San Jose coach Todd McLellan said he was pleased with the way his team refused to get flustered despite Price's play, all the blocked shots and a succession of posts and crossbars hit by his shooters.

"We stuck with the plan and won the game," he said. "These are good games for us to play in. I didn't sense anybody going off on their own. We stuck with the program.

"At this time of the year, goalies make saves -- and you have to find a way to beat them."

Montreal fell to 10th place in the East; the Canadiens are even with Atlanta and the New York Rangers with 66 points but have played three more games than the Thrashers and one more than the Rangers.

The Canadiens, who began a stretch of three games in four days in California, got the first goal 10:20 into the game when Brian Gionta redirected a pass from Gomez past Evgeni Nabokov.

San Jose energized the sellout crowd by tying the game with a shorthanded goal 53 seconds into the second period. Patrick Marleau started the play by chasing down his own rebound and ringing the puck around to the right boards. Scott Nichol got the puck and fed Rob Blake at the right point for a shot that Marleau, stationed in the lower right circle, deflected into the net for his career-best 39th of the season.

But the tie didn't last long. Joe Thornton was getting ready to come out of the penalty box when a turnover led to one last rush for the Canadiens, and Gomez teed up a slapper from the left circle that hit San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray and went into the net at 2:06.

Defenseman Dan Boyle had a chance to tie the game at 13:31 of the second when he was awarded a penalty shot after Price was called for throwing his stick. Boyle beat Price cleanly but rang the crossbar. The Sharks then won the draw and Heatley beat Price only to be foiled by the post.

"My posts were working for me tonight," Price said. "I'd buy them dinner if they'd eat."

Scott Nichol had another chance to tie the game early in the third when he went on a breakaway but also rang the bar -- then was driven into the end boards by Maxime Lapierre. He left holding his right shoulder, but no penalty was called.

"It was an Eastern Conference team, so you don't really expect that," Boyle said. "They're fighting for their playoff lives and we're fighting to get our game back on track. It was a chippy game out there. Sometimes it's good for the team to rally around that and get together. It was a very weird game, a lot of weird things happened out there but we stuck together and won the game."

The incident appeared to energize the Sharks, who began to control play and capitalized on a penalty to Roman Hamrlik when Heatley got a piece of Boyle's point shot and deflected it past Price and into the net.

"It just bounced off me; just a little tip," Heatley said.

After Malhotra put the Sharks ahead for the first time, Nabokov preserved the win by making a superb glove save to rob Andrei Kostitsyn with 49 seconds remaining -- , prompting chants of "Nabby! Nabby!" from the crowd. It was a big boost for Nabokov, who allowed six goals in less than two periods in Russia's Olympic loss to Canada last week and four goals to New Jersey in a loss on Thursday.

"I thought he was outstanding," Heatley said. "He kept us in it with some big saves when it was 2-1 and let us chip away and get the tie and the win."

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

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