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Sharks spoil Wilson's return to San Jose

by John Kreiser
Joe Thornton's anniversary party spoiled Ron Wilson's return to San Jose.

Skating on the third anniversary of his first game as a Shark, Thornton had a goal and three assists — all in the first period — as San Jose shredded the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.

The loss spoiled former coach Ron Wilson's return to San Jose. Wilson, the winningest coach in Sharks history, was hired by the Leafs just weeks after being let go by San Jose following a disappointing second-round playoff loss in May.

He and former assistants Rob Zettler and Tim Hunter got a standing ovation when their picture appeared on the scoreboard. But that was about all that went right for Wilson and his new team: The Sharks took away any drama early by scoring four times in the first 17:07.

"They come at you really fast, and we kind of expected that — a quick start. We just weren't ready for it," said Wilson, whose team won 3-1 in Los Angeles on Monday. "The way they crash the net, they're going to cash in. If we somehow could have survived the first 10 minutes of the game, I think we could have found our equilibrium. But it was over — that's one you throw the white towel in from the corner, like in a boxing match.

"A few of our guys rose to the challenge. Unfortunately, not enough did."

The Sharks won their eighth in a row, the longest winning streak in the NHL this season, and matched the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens' record for best 25-game start with 43 points.

"We talked about it a little bit before the game, but we didn't want to jinx it," Setoguchi said of the record. "We got a big win. Now we're in the books."

Added captain Patrick Marleau: "It's great. The media brought it up to us this morning. We had a chance to make history, and we got it done. Hopefully we can build on it and make some more history.

The Sharks' 21 wins after 25 games matches the most by any team in League history. The '43-44 Canadiens were 20-2-3; San Jose is 21-3-1. The Sharks are also 13-0-1 at the Shark Tank — the only remaining team that hasn't lost a home game in regulation this season.



Thornton, who made his debut as a Shark on Dec. 2, 2005, after a trade with Boston, set up Setoguchi's goal 1:15 into the game, jammed in a loose puck at 6:35, and assisted on goals by Dan Boyle at 15:59 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 17:07.

"Really, the game was over after the first period," Thornton said.

Nikolai Kulemin ended Evgeni Nabokov's shutout bid midway through the second period, San Jose's Joe Pavelski had a shorthanded goal at 4:00 of the third period and Niklas Hagman beat Nabokov with 34 seconds left.

"The first period was tremendous — we had a lot of jump and won a lot of battles. But give Toronto credit. They competed," said Todd McLellan, who succeeded Wilson behind the Sharks' bench.

And what was Wilson's appraisal of his former team?

"From what I've seen, easily the best team in the League," he said.

Stars 3, Flames 1 | Video

Hours after Sean Avery was suspended by the NHL, the Stars came up with one of their best efforts of the season to win in Calgary. Marty Turco stopped 36 shots and Fabian Brunnstrom broke a 1-1 tie with his first goal in 10 games.

Brunnstrom went in alone after taking Trevor Daley's long pass. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff stopped his first shot, but the Stars rookie was able to reach across and one-hand the bouncing puck over the goal line.

Turco, who has struggled for most of the season, did the rest. He held an opponent to less than two goals for just the third time this season after allowing 15 goals on 100 shots in his previous four games. He was superb in the third period, stopping all 15 shots he faced as the Flames pressed for the equalizer before Loui Eriksson tapped in an empty-netter with 15 seconds remaining to give the Stars back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"He had to make some very good saves for us. They're a hard team around the net and Marty held his ground and played real well," Stars coach Dave Tippett said.

Avery was suspended indefinitely by the NHL, pending a hearing with Commissioner Gary Bettman, following inappropriate public comments about the personal lives of opposing players, and not pertaining to the game, made by Avery earlier in the day. He will not play in Dallas' game at Edmonton on Wednesday. Turco applauded his teammates' ability to put the episode behind them and earn a much-needed road victory.

"You have to really appreciate the effort and focus of this club with all that's gone on, never mind today's unfortunate incident shining on our club," he said. "The way we did play, and focus, and played our game plan better than we have in a long time."

Dallas scored 6:14 into the game when Toby Peterson rammed in a rebound after Kiprusoff stopped Stephane Robidas' shot. Calgary tied it at 1:44, one second after a power play expired, when David Moss knocked the rebound of Adrian Aucoin's shot past Turco.

"We weren't quite as sharp as we have been lately," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who saw his six-game point streak come to an end. "Maybe that's part of not capitalizing on our scoring chances. I thought we could have had a few more. They played a good road game."

Panthers 5, Capitals 3

Florida ended Washington's home unbeaten streak in regulation at 10 games with the help of a couple lucky bounces. The Panthers, who came into the game 13th in the East in scoring, got two of their three second-period goals on shots that went into the net off Washington players.

"We got some bounces around the net that we haven't been getting," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "Our guys worked hard for it."

After Nicklas Backstrom put Washington ahead in the first period on a goal that deflected into the net off Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, Ville Peltonen tied it at 6:19 into the second period. Florida went ahead 2-1 when Washington's David Steckel's pass hit teammate Karl Alzner's skate in front and went between Jose Theodore's pads for a power-play goal. No Panther was within 25 feet of either Steckel or Alzner, and Bouwmeester was credited with the goal.

Florida made it 3-1 when Bryan McCabe's shot pinballed off Washington's Boyd Gordon and Shaone Morrison before going past Theodore for another power-play goal at 12:19.

"We put in a lot of work tonight and had success," Bouwmeester said. "They've got some guys with a lot of skill."

Radek Dvorak added a third-period goal that proved to be the winner when Washington rallied with a pair of late goals by Viktor Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann. Gregory Campbell hit the empty net to give the Panthers back-to-back road wins behind Craig Anderson, who made 23 saves.

Washington lost in regulation at home for the first time this season (9-1-1). The Capitals were 15-0-1 in their past 16 games at the Verizon Center.

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was unhappy with his team's energy level until the too-little, too-late rally in the third period.

"It was the least energy we've had all year, and I talked about us having a lot of energy tonight," Boudreau said. "We didn't play with a lot of life, and everybody's accountable."

Canadiens 5, Thrashers 4 | Video

Montreal wasted a three-goal, third-period lead in less than a minute, but recovered to beat the struggling Thrashers. Andrei Kostitsyn broke a 3-3 tie with 5:11 left and Robert Lang's empty-netter proved to be the game-winner.

Kostitsyn put Montreal ahead to stay after the Thrashers broke two team records for fastest goals. With Atlanta trailing 3-0, ex-Canadien defenseman Ron Hainsey beat Carey Price with a slapper from the top of the slot at 6:28. He got his second goal of the night 52 seconds later when he swatted a loose puck past Price and barely over the goal line.

That goal was allowed after a lengthy video review, and before the Canadiens knew what had hit them, Chris Thorburn scored seven seconds later to tie the game, giving Atlanta three goals in 59 seconds. It was the fastest two and three goals in franchise history.

"Those goals they scored were simple plays," Montreal's Tomas Plekanec said. "We were just standing and watching."

But Kostitsyn, who set up two of Montreal's first three goals, untied it when he beat two Thrashers to a loose puck and saw his pass deflect off Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom and past a helpless Johan Hedberg.

"It just breaks your heart, more than anything," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "It's hard on the team."

Lang's empty-netter at 18:45 looked like window dressing, but the Thrashers kept Hedberg on the bench and cut the margin to one when Jason Williams scored with 20 seconds remaining.

"It just breaks your heart, more than anything.  It's hard on the team." -- Atlanta coach John Anderson on Tuesday's loss to Montreal

 "That’s kind of been the story of our year," Anderson said after his team's fourth consecutive loss. "We’ve had a couple of bad bounces at critical times, but we can’t let them get up 3-0 either. All year we’ve been coming back, but the big thing is to get out and have a lead.

"Montreal is a very difficult place to play — the crowd is really loud and it’s exciting — but if you get down 3-0 against the Montreal Canadiens, you’re in trouble."

Before the Thrashers' rally, it looked like the only question for the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre would be whether Price would get a shutout.

Rookie Mark D'Agostini scored his first NHL goal by banging a rebound past Hedberg at 16:21. Tomas Plekanec doubled the lead at 14:22 when Plekanec blasted a slap shot from the left circle through Hedberg, and Andrei Markov made it 3-0 at 19:04 after Hedberg failed to control a soft wrist shot.

Having to scramble for the win took some of the enjoyment away.

"It's definitely unfortunate what happened in that third period," Plekanec said. "If we played solid the way we did in the first two periods for 60 minutes it would definitely be a better feeling for everybody in this room. Everybody's obviously happy about the two points — but the way we got it, it's not pretty."

Coyotes 4, Kings 2 | Video

For the second time in as many nights, the Kings were unable to protect a one-goal lead in the third period. This time, Phoenix rallied from a 2-1 deficit with three goals, including two by Enver Lisin in just over four minutes.

The Kings, who saw Toronto overcome a 1-0 deficit with three goals in the third period on Monday, led 2-1 after 40 minutes before Lisin took Keith Yandle's pass and beat Erik Ersberg from the low slot at 4:06 to tie the game.

Lisin put Phoenix ahead at 8:08, beating Ersberg from the left circle after taking Derek Morris' breakaway pass.

"I just had the puck and tried to go hard to the net," said Lisin, who spent 11 games in the minors before being recalled on Nov. 21. "I saw he almost had me and I decided to shoot and got some luck."

Lisin said the trip to San Antonio of the AHL was a wakeup call.

"For sure, when you get sent down it's not the greatest thing in your life," he said. "When you get back you're so excited. It's very big for me."

Martin Hanzal added an empty-netter and Mikael Tellqvist made 32 saves as he and the Coyotes won for the third time in four games.

"He was as good as he's been again all year," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said of his goalie. "He's just been solid. I know the players like playing in front of him and he's having fun."

Alexander Frolov put the Kings ahead 4:59 into the game when he picked off David Hale's pass and beat Tellqvist. Shane Doan tied it at 6:41 when he redirected Ed Jovanovski's shot past Ersberg for a power-play goal.

Rookie Oscar Moller's first goal since Nov. 1 put Los Angeles ahead at 8:37 of the second period. Moller got his fifth of the season by one-timing a long rebound past Tellqvist for a power-play goal.

"It's such a fine line in this League," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It's one pass, one decision, one deflected puck, one power play that is the difference."

Material from wire services was used in this report


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