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Sharks reign supreme in Boston

by Brian Compton
In the battle of conference leaders on Tuesday night, the West showed the East who's boss.
Trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes, the San Jose Sharks scored four times in the third period en route to a 5-2 win against the Boston Bruins at a stunned TD Banknorth Garden.

The Sharks, who trailed 2-1 entering the third period for only the 12th time this season, lead the West with 81 points. Boston leads the League with 85, but was thoroughly dominated by Todd McLellan's club in the final 20 minutes.

''We play fast, we play big,'' Sharks center Joe Thornton said after playing his second game in Boston since he was traded to the Sharks, on Nov. 30, 2005. ''They came out really strong and we didn't have too many answers. I think the second half of the game, the ice kind of tilted.''
Both of Boston's goals came in the first period and were scored by Milan Lucic. But the Bruins -- who were 26-0-2 when leading after 40 minutes -- failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage in the second and allowed the dangerous Sharks to stay in the game.
And by the midway point of the third period, the Sharks were up by a pair. Patrick Marleau tied the game with his 27th goal 3:32 into the third, and Milan Michalek and Thornton -- who was booed nearly every time he touched the puck -- struck 2:20 apart against Tim Thomas to make it a 4-2 game. Thornton's goal went off his left skate and was awarded following a video review.
Mike Grier -- who attended Boston University -- sealed the deal when he scored an empty-net goal at 19:31. Ryan Clowe had three assists for the Sharks, who remained two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings atop the Western Conference.

''It's pretty rewarding to come back in a building like this and get a game like that in the third period,'' McLellan said.

In a potential preview of the Stanley Cup Final, Bruins coach Claude Julien was able to get a close look at the Western Conference leader. He was left highly impressed.

''They're the best team we've played so far this year and it would be nice to get another shot at them (in the Stanley Cup finals) … hopefully with both teams being healthy,'' said Julien, whose team failed to earn a point in the standings for the first time in 10 games. ''Hopefully we can work our way there, but that's a long ways off and there's a lot of things to be done before we can even think about that.''

Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves for the Sharks, who will look to continue their winning ways on Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. San Jose is 10-1-1 against the Eastern Conference this season.

''We were excited for this,'' said Bruins center Marc Savard, who had an assist. ''After Christmas we all had it marked on our calendar. We wanted to be ready for this.''

In the third period, though, it was the Sharks who were ready. They peppered Thomas with 12 shots on goal and managed to kill off two Boston power plays. The Bruins went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.

''If the power play was on a little bit more it would have been a different game,'' Thornton said. ''They're a good team.''

One that suffered two significant injuries on Tuesday night. Petteri Nokelainen left in the first period after taking what appeared to be a high stick from Dan Boyle, causing a cut near the eye. In the second, Chuck Kobasew was hit by Douglas Murray and came off the ice favoring his right leg.

Kobasew tried to return in the third but was forced to leave again.

Nokelainen's injury is likely worse than Kobasew's. The young forward was taken to the hospital for treatment.

"It's pretty rewarding to come back in a building like this and get a game like that in the third period." -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan
''It's an eye injury and I don't think it's looking good right now,'' Julien said.

Perhaps the short bench played a role in Boston's demise in the third period? Whatever the case was, Savard was not pleased to see his team unravel in the final 20 minutes.

''We played a 40-minute game, that's the bottom line,'' Savard said. ''We didn't play the last 20 and they're too good of a team not to play (60) minutes of hockey and they took advantage of it.''

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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