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Sharks Overpower Kings, 3-2, in Cheechoo's Return

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
Milan Michalek lead the way offensively with a pair of goals while Evgeni Nabokov was superb in net making 29 saves as the San Jose Sharks (19-12-5) defeated the Los Angeles Kings (12-24-2) by a 3-2 final on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.


Click here for pictures from Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings (PICS ).

Nabokov started his 36th consecutive game this season and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a sore groin.

With early four-on-four play due to matching minors to Marcel Goc and Lubomir Visnovsky, former Shark Brad Stuart caught Joe Thornton with a high-stick and the Sharks had 30 seconds of four-on-three time. The Sharks could not capitalize on the power play with the extra open ice or at the traditional five-on-four numbers and the game remained scoreless.

San Jose Sharks left wing Milan Michalek, left, of the Czech Republic celebrates his goal as Los Angeles Kings' Jeff Giuliano looks on during the first period of their NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
When the Kings were at even strength, Dustin Brown led a two-on-one and managed a backhander from the slot, only to see Nabokov easily corral the puck.

San Jose captured the early lead courtesy of the re-formed Patrick Marleau line. Marleau and Sandis Ozolinsh controlled the puck along the boards and Ozolinsh fed Milan Michalek near the point. He powered the puck toward the net where Steve Bernier was creating traffic and Jason LaBarbera never saw the shot.

The tally was a strong omen for San Jose as they were 13-5-3 when posting the first tally.

Team Teal would make it 2-0 thanks to Joe Pavelski a moment later. On a relatively simply play, Pavelski grabbed a loose puck eight feet from LaBarbera’s left and quickly lifted a backhand to the top corner.

The tally prompted Los Angeles’ Head Coach Marc Crawford to pull LaBarbera for Jean-Sebastien Aubin midway through the first.

Aubin was tested in the period’s final minutes as he faced a one-on-one showdown with Michalek loose in front, but Aubin handled the deke and subsequent forehand shot.

Los Angeles had a power play to close out the first when San Jose was called for too many men on the ice, but the home club could not close the gap. With 10 seconds left in the stanza, Patrick Rissmiller intercepted a pass and skated in on a breakaway, but he shot just wide and the period finished with San Jose up 2-0.

Looking to build on their strong first period performance, the Sharks came out aggressively to begin the second. However San Jose’s aggression translated into consecutive penalties on Cheechoo for interference and Christian Ehrhoff for cross-checking, granting the Kings a five-on-three man advantage.

The Kings capitalized on their opportunity with 13:42 to play in the second when Rob Blake blasted a slap shot past a sprawling Nabokov. Blake’s goal cut the Sharks lead to 2-1 and seemed to jump-start a slumping Kings squad.

San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov of Kazakhstan is scored on by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake, not pictured, during the second period of their NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Matt Carle did his part in escalating the game’s intensity with 5:22 to play in the second when he absolutely clobbered Kings forward Ladislav Nagy with a perfectly-timed shoulder check. Nagy remained on the ice for a few minutes as he struggled to catch his breath.

On Nagy’s next shift, the Kings forward sought retribution for the hit he absorbed and went after Carle in front of the Sharks cage. Nagy cross-checked the Sharks defenseman and was looking to start something, but Carle refused to be drawn into a bad penalty.

Craig Rivet took exception to Nagy’s questionable stick work on his defensive partner and again drilled Nagy with a clean shoulder check. As the play made its way to the Sharks cage, Nagy then began cross-checking Rivet who responded with a pair of cross-checks of his own.

Rivet’s second cross-check came up high on Nagy who did his best to sell the call. The play resulted in Rivet receiving a match penalty for intent to injure, giving the Kings a golden opportunity with a five-minute power play to close the second period.

The Sharks managed to kill the first 2:40 of the five-minute power play as the second period closed with the Sharks leading 2-1.

San Jose killed the remaining 2:20 of the advantage to open the third and wrestled away any momentum the Kings had generated, thanks in part to a huge glove save by Nabokov on Nagy. A tic-tac-toe passing play forced Nabokov to stack the pads moving to his left as Nagy ripped a shot targeted for the top corner, but Nabokov snagged the puck out of the air keeping it a 2-1 Sharks lead.

With 16:36 to play in the third, Michalek provided the Sharks with a valuable insurance goal, making it 3-1. Michalek redirected a Joe Thornton shot past Aubin giving the Sharks their second two-goal lead of the game.

Things got tense in the final minute of regulation when a Carle slashing penalty lead to another Kings power play goal and made it a 3-2 game, but the Sharks were able to close out the remaining seconds in regulation to snap their three-game winless streak and extend their road winning streak to seven games.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Sharks showed no ill effects of having to travel on game day, improving to 13-3-2 on the road this season. San Jose enjoyed days off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day forcing the Sharks to make the trek south to face their intrastate rivals this morning. With their 13-3-2 mark, the Sharks are tied for the best mark in the League with the Ottawa Senators who defeated the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday night.

LINEUP

Jonathan Cheechoo was activated from the IR and made his return to the lineup after missing seven games with a groin injury, Douglas Murray (ankle) missed his second straight game and Devin Setoguchi and Curtis Brown were healthy scratches.

Cheechoo – Thornton – Roenick
Michalek – Marleau – Bernier
Rissmiller – Mitchell – Grier
Davison – Goc – Pavelski

Carle – Rivet
McLaren – Vlasic
Ozolinsh – Ehrhoff

Nabokov – Patzold

NEXT GAME

The Sharks continue their four-game post-Christmas road trip on Friday, traveling to St. Louis for their first meeting of the season against the Blues. The game is set for 5:30 PM (Pacific) and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.
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