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Sharks stay perfect with shootout win

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The streak goes on for the undefeated San Jose Sharks, who won their seventh straight game and second straight shootout Thursday night at HP Pavilion, a 3-2 decision over the Edmonton Oilers.

Michal Handzus and Dan Boyle scored the only goals in the shootout, and Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped both shots he faced, first from Sam Gagner then from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan downplayed the importance of being the NHL's only remaining undefeated team -- but not the importance of having 14 quick points.

"The schedule's so compacted, it's a short season," McLellan said. "The more you can bank points the better off you are. We'll have our share of times where we're frustrated and maybe not winning, but right now we've got to keep putting them in the bank as much as we can."

Handzus has been money in the bank in shootouts for San Jose. He's now 18 for 34 for his career and 7 for 12 as a Shark.

During a shootout win against Anaheim on Tuesday, Handzus scored the decider in the first round against Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. Handzus again got the Sharks off to a good start in the shootout, this time beating Devan Dubnyk on a high shot to his stick side.

"He's big, too, but he's deep in the net. I knew I couldn't shoot it right away," Handzus said. "I tried to fake it first, make him go down then try to go up. It worked."

McLellan said there was no doubt he was going to send Handzus out first again in the shootout.

"He's elite, one of the best in the League, and we're fortunate to have him in that situation," McLellan said. "He seems to make it count more often than not."

In the third round Boyle wristed a shot past Dubnyk, sealing the victory.

Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski scored in regulation for the Sharks. Gagner and Taylor Hall had goals for the Oilers, who fell to 4-2-1 but played much better than they did in a 6-3 loss to San Jose 10 days earlier when the Sharks scored six first-period goals.

"We needed to respond after that game in Edmonton," said Dubnyk, who gave up all six of the Sharks' goals in the Oilers' home-opener.

Hall nearly ended it less than a minute into overtime on a breakaway, but Niemi caught his shot from close range. A minute later Hall nearly redirected a shot into the net, but Niemi stopped that one as well.

With 1:15 left in overtime, Gagner was penalized for hooking Marc-Edouard Vlasic and the Sharks went on their fifth power play. Boyle had a good scoring chance from the slot, and Couture ripped a one-timer with time running out. But the Sharks, who entered the game with the NHL's top power play, came up empty again.

The Sharks killed all three penalties they faced against an Oilers' power play that ranked was No. 2 entering the game. The Sharks have now killed 16 straight penalties.

"It's been good," McLellan said. "That's one of the top power plays in the League, very dangerous. Not only do they have a lot of skill on it but they've got some speed, some tempo to it. It starts with the goaltender. He made some great saves when he had to. Everybody else is doing their jobs and not getting caught out very long. We've been able to stay fresh on the penalty kill, which helps."

The Oilers trailed 2-1 entering the third but needed just 51 seconds to pull even on Hall's goal, capping a 2-on-1 break with Jordan Eberle. Hall sent a cross-ice pass to Eberle, took the return feed and sent beat Niemi from just left of the crease.

The Sharks appeared to move back ahead when Ryane Clowe got past Mark Fistric and beat Dubnyk with a backhander at 4:24. But Clowe was penalized for interfering with Fistric long before he put the puck in the back of the net.

The Sharks turned up the heat late in the third, sending puck after puck at Dubnyk, but they couldn't get one past him. For the period, the Sharks outshot the Oilers 13-6.

There were no first-period fireworks -- or even goals -- this time. But after a scoreless first 20 minutes, the Sharks got goals from Couture and Pavelski in a span of 39 seconds midway through the second period to grab a 2-0 lead.

Both goals were unassisted, and both came after Oilers turnovers in the neutral zone by defensemen, the first by Ryan Whitney and the second by Ladislav Smid.

While being pressured by Sharks forward Scott Gomez, Whitney lost control of the puck, and Couture jumped on the gift with nothing but open ice between him and Dubnyk. He blasted a shot inside the left post at 7:32, putting the Sharks ahead.

Seconds later, Pavelski blocked a pass by Smid, grabbed the puck and headed the other way -- again with no Oiler in his path. He ripped a shot from the right circle past Dubnyk's glove at 8:11 to make it 2-0. It was his fourth goal in three games.

Oilers coach Ralph Krueger then used his timeout, and his team quickly responded. Fistric fired a hard shot from the blue line, and Gagner redirected the puck past Niemi at 10:56 for his third of the season.

"I think we have to gain confidence from the way we battled back," Gagner said. "It's obviously a tough one to lose. Coming off a back-to-back against a team like San Jose, who's playing so well, we have to learn from it and continue to develop. The way we played in our home opener, we weren't happy with that and we let their offense take control of that game, and we weren't very patient. Tonight, we got some of that patience back. We were able to push the pace a bit. It was a great team effort from us."

After playing solid hockey during their first five wins, the Sharks have struggled the past two games but have found a way to win both in shootouts.

"That's what good teams do, but we cannot make a habit of it," Handzus said. "Obviously we've got to be better than the last two games. We got to work on it. The wins matter, for sure, but you cannot let it slide. You got to still play well."

The Oilers outshot the Sharks 11-7 in a fast-paced first period, but neither team could capitalize on numerous good scoring chances.

Gomez, skating on the second line, was stopped by Dubnyk from close range on a rush just over a minute into the game. With Edmonton on its first power play, Sharks forward Martin Havlat was rejected by Dubnyk on a breakaway. Seconds later, Couture hit the left post.

Gagner blasted a shot from the low slot late in the period, but Niemi gloved it. Ten different Oilers fired shots at Niemi, but he stopped every one.

The Oilers were without captain Shawn Horcoff, who missed the game with a stiff neck -- the result of a hard hit he took Wednesday night from the Phoenix Coyotes' Shane Doan.

Edmonton called up forward Anton Lander from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League -- he was in the lineup on the fourth line -- and sent down forward Magnus Paajarvi to make room for him on the roster.

Boyle returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday night's game against Anaheim. Defenseman Jason Demers, who had been out after fracturing a wrist while playing hockey in Europe during the lockout, was added to the active roster but was a scratch.

McLellan shuffled his bottom three lines in the third period and OT on Tuesday against Anaheim, and he opened against Edmonton with most of that new-look lineup. Gomez jumped from the fourth to second line as a wing, skating with Couture and Clowe. Havlat dropped from the second to the third line, replacing TJ Galiardi, who was a scratch. James Sheppard replaced Galiardi in the lineup.

"He's showing us that he wants to keep playing and stay in the lineup," McLellan said of Sheppard.

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