Coming off two consecutive wins against the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks returned to action Thursday night to take on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Looking to narrow the gap in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, the Sharks sent Evgeni Nabokov to the net to faceoff against Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov would get the upper hand on this night, however, as the Ducks defeated the Sharks by the score of 2-0.
Former Shark Teemu Selanne came out looking to make an early statement against his former club, but his efforts were thwarted by Nabokov.
On the other end, San Jose had the game’s first power play, but could not convert.
A rush toward the net by Nils Ekman forced Anaheim to take their second penalty in a row, but again the Ducks special teams never really let San Jose penetrate the zone and the game remained scoreless 10 minutes in. In fact, during the two minutes, it was Anaheim with the top scoring chance when Jonathan Hedstrom skated in on a breakaway, but Nabokov made the glove save.
When Kyle McLaren was sent to the box, it was Anaheim with the man advantage, but they could not generate much of an offensive attack either.
With five minutes remaining in the first, a scary moment occurred when a Joe Thornton
slap shot caught Anaheim blueliner Ruslan Salei in the face. He skated toward the lockerroom with the assistance of the trainer. Salei did not return to the contest.
As the period wound to a close, Mark Smith nearly gave San Jose the 1-0 lead when he closed in on Bryzgalov in the closing seconds, but the Anaheim netminder turned the shot away.
San Jose began the second with a flurry of pressure around Bryzgalov. Tom Preissing found himself just outside the slot with the puck, but the traffic in front left him no net to shoot at and the opportunity went wide.
The ice opened up six minutes into the second as both clubs were down a man when Scott Hannan and Selanne were each given two minutes for roughing, providing 56 seconds of four-on-four time.
Midway through the second frame, Joe Thornton
was sent to the box for hooking. Two good saves by Nabokov allowed the Sharks to fight off the two-minutes and the team went back to full strength.
Andy McDonald ended the stalemate when he tipped the puck past Nabokov after receiving a perfect lead pass from Keith Carney. The Ducks led 1-0 with three minutes left in the second.
Nabokov did stop a two-on-one Ducks rush in the final minute of the period to keep the deficit at one after 40 minutes.
Anaheim had their fourth and fifth power plays early in their final twenty minutes and on the second chance, they made San Jose pay. Joffrey Lupul converted a nice pass from Selanne in front of the slot and the guests quickly had a 2-0 lead.
Just as quickly, San Jose had an opportunity to jump right back in the lead when they had 1:47 of five-on-three time. Ekman had the fist two big chances, Cheechoo tried to redirect a shot, and Marleau had a wrister deflected into the stands. Anaheim bent, but did not break and staved off the Sharks advantage.
San Jose kept attacking in an effort to rally. First Milan Michalek skated in on a breakaway, but was robbed by Bryzgalov. Then Grant Stevenson’s hard work in the offensive zone. Michalek snuck behind the defense on the power play for another attempt in alone, but he did not have significant time and the shot was stopped.
As the clock showed four minutes remaining, San Jose was closing the gap in the shots column, but still trailed by two goals.
With two mintues left, Ron Wilson pulled Nabokov in favor of an extra attacker. But the Sharks never could manage a shot on goal during that span and Bryzgalov hung on for the 2-0 defeat, handing the Sharks their first shutout of the season.
BEST IN THE WEST
Since Dec. 2, the Sharks have the best record in the Western Conference.
Josh Gorges has played in 16 games since his most recent call up, with only one goal being scored against with him on the ice during that time. Unfortunately, goal number two came Thursday night.
San Jose will next play in Phoenix Saturday night against the Coyotes in a 6 p.m. start. The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.