SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Thanks to one lucky bounce, goaltender Evgeni
Nabokov's perfection was rewarded and the St. Louis Blues' tenacity was wasted.
Nabokov made 24 saves in his eighth shutout of the season, and Jonathan
Cheechoo scored early in the third period of the San Jose Sharks' 1-0 victory
over the hard-luck Blues on Sunday night.
San Jose won for the fifth time in six games, staying six points ahead of
Dallas in the Pacific Division with impressive defense _ but the Sharks could
have ended up in a scoreless tie, if not for the odd carom that set up the
game's only goal.
In the opening minute of the third period, Steve Martins made an ill-advised
pass to the middle of the Blues' zone after getting surprised by the puck's
bounce off the boards. Patrick Marleau intercepted the pass and found Cheechoo,
who scored on a one-timer from the slot.
``Sometimes you've got to be standing in the right place, or all your hard
work doesn't matter,'' Cheechoo said. ``We earned the opportunity we got, but
it's part luck, too.''
Nabokov earned the 25th shutout of his career with a series of impressive
saves. His glove hand was typically impeccable as he extended his own franchise
record for shutouts in a season.
Nabokov has won four straight starts, raising his game to unprecedented
levels in his resurgent season. The Sharks, who lead the NHL in first-period
goal differential, couldn't give Nabokov his usual cushion this time _ but he
actually enjoyed a different challenge.
``It was a toe-to-toe game, and one mistake can cost you a game like that,''
Nabokov said. ``The shutout is good, but it's more important for the two
points. We're in a pretty good position to climb up (the conference standings),
but as soon as you start thinking you're up there, you find yourself down at
the other end.''
Chris Osgood stopped 17 shots for the Blues, who went winless on their
five-game road trip _ including back-to-back shutout losses with Saturday's 2-0
defeat at Vancouver.
St. Louis is 0-2-1 since Mike Kitchen took over for fired coach Joel
``Obviously it's frustrating,'' said right wing Jamal Mayers, who fought
Todd Harvey in the third period. ``We wanted to get Kitch's first win. We
played well the last three games, but to only come away with one point is
Both teams were playing their third game in four nights, making for less
explosive offense and more tenacious defense. The Blues traditionally dominate
in San Jose, but Nabokov backstopped the Sharks to just their second home
victory over the Blues in 11 games.
The first two periods were scoreless, though both teams had chances. The
Sharks failed to score on two breakaways against Osgood, while at least one St.
Louis shot hit the post behind Nabokov during a power play in the second
``We're having a hard time just getting a garbage goal,'' Kitchen said. ``We
had a good power play there. We had maybe two or three real good chances. We
hit the post. Maybe it's a garbage goal that turns it around for us.''
Cheechoo's 19th goal extended his point streak to a career-best seven games.
He has five goals and five assists during that span, improving from a solid
contributor to a serious scorer in his second full NHL season.
``I'm starting to get a little bit more confidence, and I'm starting to
score a little bit more, and more consistently,'' Cheechoo said. ``That was one
of my goals coming into the season. It feels good coming into the playoffs
knowing that I can contribute that way.''
Linesman Brad Kovachik was knocked out of the game less than three minutes
in when Alex Korolyuk accidentally hit him with the puck while trying to dump
it into St. Louis' end. Kovachik remained on the ice for two minutes, and was
evaluated at a local hospital.