The San Jose Sharks took their game to the East Coast and opened up their eight game trip with a Sunday tilt against the New York Rangers, but could not improve on their NHL-best road record and fell to the Rangers 3-1 despite stellar goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton
’s 500th career assist.
San Jose was making their first visit to the New York area in five years. Douglas Murray
returned to action as Sandis Ozolinsh was out of the lineup (healthy scratch) and Alexei Semenov (lower back) was placed on the injured reserve list. Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist were the goalies of record and Patrick Marleau
missed the contest with his sore groin.
New York had the first two chances of the day on odd-man rushes in the opening minutes, but it was San Jose who took the early lead. Three minutes and 31 seconds in, Joe Thornton
circled behind the net, came out the other side, and fed Jonathan Cheechoo across the crease. Lundqvist made the initial stop of Cheechoo’s shot, but in his effort to secure it, knocked the vulcanized rubber back across the line. Thornton recorded his 500th career assist on the play that gave San Jose a 1-0 lead.
When the home club took to the power play, it looked like Team Teal would take a 2-0 lead when Mike Grier skated in shorthanded on Lundqvist. Grier fought off a slash, but could not increase the lead.
On the other end of the ice, San Jose appeared to be out of danger, but as the penalty expired, Chris Drury fed Ryan Callahan alone in the low slot and he knocked the puck across the line.
San Jose pressured hard late in the period, but could not retake the lead and the first concluded tied at one.
When the Rangers took to a second period power play when Patrick Rissmiller was called for a delay-of-game, San Jose had another excellent shorthanded shift. This time it was Milan Michalek who maneuvered between two Rangers defenders and lifted a shot on Lundqvist, but he was just short on room to complete the play. Just like the first period, when play went the other way after missed scoring opportunity, the Rangers scored.
Drury, who set up the Rangers first goal, took the puck 12 feet out front and to Nabokov’s left and deftly placed his shot inside the post to give New York their first lead of the game.
That would be all the scoring in the second period as the goalies controlled the play. Nabokov was especially strong late in the second when he held the Rangers power play at bay in keeping the deficit at one.
Four minutes into the third, Michalek pulled out another move from his bag of tricks. He performed a complete spin-o-rama near center ice to control a pass and continued in stride on a two-on-one rush with Thornton. Michalek held the puck the entire way, but just missed on his effort to pick the corner.
Soon after, Thornton beautifully fed Craig Rivet dropping down from the blueline, but Rivet could not make full contact and the game score still favored New York.
Nabokov was tested again when Jaromir Jagr fired away on a Rangers two-on-one rush, but could not beat the Sharks netminder.
With nine left in regulation, San Jose almost tied it thanks to the initial effort of Joe Pavelski
. His shot was too much for Lundqvist to handle and it fell just above the crease. Steve Bernier almost got to it on time, but couldn’t and a mad scramble ensued out front. By the time the puck found its way to a Sharks player dropping down, Lundqvist’s mask had been knocked off and play was stopped.
San Jose pulled Nabokov for the extra attacker late in the third, but could not find the equalizer and, after a flurry in front of the Rangers crease, New York padded the victory with an empty netter for the 3-1 final.
San Jose will play the New York Islanders Monday morning at 11 and the contest can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.