After a three-game road trip to Western Canada, the Sharks returned to the friendly confines of HP Pavilion for their match up with the division rival Dallas Stars Tuesday night. The undefeated Stars were on a role and leading the Pacific Division, but it was San Jose's night as Evgeni Nabokov shut them out 2-0.
Coming off an impressive performance on Friday night where they each scored a goal, the line of Curtis Brown, Mike Grier and Ville Nieminen earned the start from Head Coach Ron Wilson. Joining them was the defense pairing of Matt Carle and Kyle McLaren. Marty Turco started opposite Nabokov.
Josh Gorges took a high-sticking penalty against Eric Lindros at 3:46 of the first for the game's first power play, but Team Teal squashed the scoring chance and began pressuring the Stars. At even strength, Nabokov brilliantly played a breakaway by Mike Modano, getting just enough of the shot to send it off the post.
Still early in the first, Thornton’s line worked the net around Turco and Captain Patrick Marleau
just missed on a breakaway as the momentum started going the Sharks way. Then Marcel Goc set the crowd on fire by controlling play and eluding his defender for 15 seconds behind the net. The contest remained scoreless through 10 minutes.
With eight minutes left in the first, Nabokov came up huge again. This time a pinpoint pass by Sergei Zubov sent Niklas Hagman in alone on the Sharks starter. Again the Russian netminder stood his ground and turned away the shot.
With the two clubs skating four-on-four, San Jose broke the scoreless tie. As the Sharks controlled it at the blueline, McLaren fed Carle along the half boards and the rookie blueliner sent the vulcanized rubber toward the net. There, a driving Milan Michalek tipped it above and over Turco for the 1-0 first period lead.
The final three minutes of the opening stanza saw the teams combine for two sets of coincidental minors, but neither team was able to manufacture a late goal as Team Teal took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Action slowed a bit in the second as just a combined five shots were posted in the opening 10 minutes of the stanza. Nabokov faced another breakaway halfway into the second as Matthew Barnaby came in alone. As Nabokov covered the left side of the net, Barnaby switched to stuff the puck on the far side. Nabokov managed to stick his right leg across to make the highlight save.
Some old school highlights came via fisticuffs between Mike Grier and Philippe Boucher as Boucher thought liberties were taken with his netminder, but Grier instead took liberties with Boucher and won the decision.
With 3:40 remaining in the second, San Jose upped the lead to two. Normally the sniper, Cheechoo drove the net from the right side and forced Turco to commit. Once that happened, the Moose Factory, Ontario native deftly slid the puck into the slot to the hard skating Mark Bell, who tapped it into the empty crease. For Bell, who missed the recent three-game trip with a groin injury, it marked his second goal in three games at HP Pavilion.
San Jose would take the 2-0 lead into the locker room.
The home club would keep up their defensive pressure early in the third and as the game reached its final 10 minutes. When San Jose killed off a Cheechoo tripping penalty with five minutes remaining, the fans roared the approval.
With four minutes remaining in regulation, Nabokov had his save of the night in a night with multiple highlight saves. A smart pass across the slot gave Jeff Halpern what appeared to be an empty right side of the net. It was not as it appeared as Nabokov slid across the ice to rob the Stars center.
That capped the evening for San Jose as they handed the Stars their first loss of the 2006-07 season.
Mark Bell was activated off injured reserve and was reunited with linemates Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, while Ryane Clowe returned to the IR list with a nagging foot injury.
Nieminen – Brown – Grier
Bell – Thornton – Cheechoo
Michalek – Marleau Bernier
Smith – Goc – Rissmiller
McLaren – Carle
Hannan – Vlasic
Gorges – Ehrhoff
Nabokov – Toskala
The Sharks will continue their three-game home stand on Thursday when they host the Detroit Red Wings. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast in high-definition on FSN Bay Area, on KFOX 98.5 FM and on SJSHARKS.com.