San Jose had lost their last four shootouts, but on Saturday night, they had the return of Evgeni Nabokov to the pipes boosting their morale and the All-Star netminder willed the Sharks to a 2-1 shootout victory.
Team Teal members were simply excited to have “Nabby” back in the crease.
“He made all the big saves,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
“He did play well,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “The coaching staff watching him in warmups used the term that he was in the zone. We’re happy to have him back.”
Nabokov had a week’s worth of highlight reel saves with the best being a two-on-zero Kings rush where his stellar positioning didn’t allow for a shot on goal.
“I just reacted,” said Nabokov about forcing the pass and then sliding over and forcing the Kings attacker to carry the puck behind the goal line.
“You see what they are trying to do and try to put them in a tough spot,” said Nabokov.
The reason the play happened was Joe Thornton
was forced to head toward the bench and thus wasn’t where his teammates expected him to be. It was not the fault of Thornton though.
“Joe broke his stick and had to come to the bench,” said McLellan. “Those are the breaks sometimes and again Nabby held the fort.”
Nabokov did appreciate that his teammates allowed him to ease into the game, allowing just five first period shots.
“They made it easy,” said Nabokov. “I didn’t face a lot of shots. Sometimes you need help and they cleared the rebounds.”
Nabokov noted his most difficult save was one that did sneak behind him, but on the play he was able to scramble back and cover it before Los Angeles could pounce on it.
“I guess that one because I had no idea where it was,” said Nabokov.
The Sharks looked like they might cruise to an easy victory after 20 minutes, but the Kings fought hard and had things even after 65 minutes.
“We hung in there and got the win,” said Dan Boyle
. “We’ll take it, but it’s another learning experience. Five-on-five, we lacked the killer instinct.”
San Jose’s coach was happy with the effort on the evening.
“The puck just didn’t go in and you have to give their goalie a lot of credit,” said McLellan.
Jonathan Cheechoo may not be having an ideal season from a goal scoring standpoint, but it did not stop McLellan from using him in the shootout. When he was called upon, Cheechoo delivered in the seventh round of the shootout and notched the winner.
“I usually just react,” said Cheechoo of his approach. “I looked at three different places and that was the last place I looked. He left that open.”
The Sharks did one of the most efficient things they could do to keep the Kings power play off the board.
“We didn’t let them have many and that helps build momentum,” said Nabokov of the Kings four advantages.
After deliver a big hit to L.A.’s Jack Johnson, Brad Staubitz was attacked by Raitis Ivanans. Despite a tough height disadvantage, Staubitz more than held his own.
The Kings Sean O’Donnell was introduced to the crowd on the big screen for playing in his 1000th career game. The always respectful HP Pavilion faithful gave him a warm applause and O’Donnell politely stood up and waved back.
For Sharks blueliner Rob Blake, it was special being on the ice when his long time friend accomplished the mark. He prerecorded a congratulations message that ran on the Kings web site.
25 IN 26
With his tally, Milan Michalek now has 25 points in his last 26 games. Dan Boyle
assisted on the play and now has helpers in three consecutive contests.
San Jose defeated the Kings in the seventh round of the shootout, the longest shootout at HP Pavilion. It marked the Sharks second shootout victory over L.A. this season and San Jose is now 5-0-0 against their Southern California rival this year.
With their victory, San Jose is now three points from clinching their fourth Pacific Division title.
The Sharks will visit Anaheim at 5 p.m. on Sunday and the game will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.