San Jose hosted the St. Louis Blues in their last game before the Christmas break Friday night with Evgeni Nabokov squaring off with Jason Bacashihua. In what was an unbelievable overtime period, the Blues outlasted the Sharks, as they took a 2-1 victory after Petr Cajanek clinched the shootout win for his squad.
Jonathan Cheechoo earned San Jose an early power play when he drove the net, but Team Teal could not convert on the ensuing power play.
Nabokov was tested on the Blues initial power play when a shot rang off the post behind him and lay loose in the crease. His defenders scrambled behind him to clear the crease and prevent the goal
With 12 minutes left in the first, Mark Rycroft tripped up Nabokov behind the net. The referees arm went up for the penalty, but rookie blueliner Josh Gorges wanted to make sure he had his goaltenders back. He promptly found Rycroft and took him to the ice. Both were given five for fighting with Rycroft getting the additional two for tripping Nabokov.
St. Louis would keep San Jose away from Bacashihua for the two minutes as they would on the third Sharks power play of the first period. The shots were even at 10 after 20 minutes and the game remained scoreless.
Nils Ekman got the first real scoring chance of the second period for the Sharks three minutes in, as he skated around two Blues defenders and wristed a shot on goal, but Bacashihua turned the shot away.
The Blues nearly broke the scoreless tie midway through the second frame when a puck was stripped from Doug Murray by Ryan Johnson, and the center drove the net hard, but Nabokov made a great save on the attempt.
St. Louis would draw a minor penalty when a driving Jeff Hoggan was tripped up by Alyn McCauley. When McCauley returned to the ice he and Joe Thornton
nearly connected on the game’s first goal, but a deflected puck prevented the tally.
Lady luck shined on the Sharks near the end of the second as the shot snuck behind Nabokov, but it was cleared before a Blues player could find it. A minor skirmish ensued at the period’s conclusion, but nothing serious came of it and the second period ended just as the first – scoreless.
San Jose avoided a prime Blues scoring opportunity five minutes into the third. A point shot rang of the post and rebounded to a wide open Lee Stempniak in the slot. The Blues winger ripped off a shot, but Nabokov had inched out to close the angle and made the stop.
With 11-minutes left in regulation, a McCauley slapshot rebounded to the right of Bacashihua, but Scott Thornton was tripped up before he could reach it. However, it would provide San Jose a fifth power play. It would be the Blue who would take advantage though. Forcing a turnover at the blueline, Mike Sillinger found Ryan Johnson for a breakaway opportunity and he buried the shot for the 1-0 lead.
After the power play expired both clubs nearly found the back of the net. First Bacashihua had to make a nice stop on Josh Langfeld and then Nabokov had to turn away a St. Louis chance at a 2-0 lead.
With just 1:04 left on the clock the Sharks finally solved Bacashihua. A hard-nosed play along the end boards by Mark Smith created an opening for Ekman. Smith saw Ekman crashing and fed him in front of the net. Ekman knew exactly what to do with the puck, as he put it past the netminder, tying the game at one.
Neither team could scratch another goal out before the end of regulation and the game went to overtime.
A fast-paced overtime period saw quality scoring chances for both teams, but none finer than when the Blues fired a shot on goal and Nabokov made a big save, but couldn't find the rebound. Doug Weight came crashing in looking to slip it past the netminder, but Nabokov, at the very last second, stuck his legpad out to turn the attempt away.
The exciting overtime period ended with St. Louis heading on a breakaway, but their shot was swallowed by Nabokov, who played an unbelievable game. The game was to be decided by a shootout.
Dean McAmmond was first to shoot for St.Louis and his attempt went just wide of the net. Next it was Joe Thornton for the Sharks, but his backhand attempt was stoned by Bacashihua. Weight would notch the next shot and the Blues led 1-0. Marleau would follow, but his shot was turned away as well. Sillinger's turn was next and his attempt went wide. It was up to Cheechoo to score and his attempt looked as if it were turned away, but the refs called upstairs to review it, and the right call was made. It was a goal.
Petr Cajanek shot next for the Blues and his shot went five hole right past Nabokov. It was up to Ekman to keep the shootout going, but his attempt was stopped by Bacashihua and the Blues skated off with the 2-1 victory.
Scott Thornton-Joe Thornton-Cheechoo
Jim Fahey and Niko Dimitrakos were the healthy scratches and Kyle McLaren took advantage of one more night to rest his knee.
The Sharks will hit the road on December 26 for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff with the Los Angeles Kings. The game will be on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.