Two of the NHL’s hottest teams took to the ice Thursday evening when the San Jose Sharks visited the Ottawa Senators. San Jose came in with a four-game winning streak and Ottawa is among the Eastern Conference elite.
Evgeni Nabokov and Hasek squared off in a high-level battle in the nets, but it would be Nabokov with the better night as he and the Sharks shutout Ottawa 2-0 to run their record against the Eastern Conference to a perfect 8-0-0 and extend their winning streak to five. Patrick Marleau
scored what proved to be the game-winner and Joe Thornton
set up Nils Ekman for the insurance tally.
The game’s first six minutes saw both teams with strong early pressure. First it was Ottawa looking like they would never leave the Sharks zone. Then it was San Jose’s turn around Hasek. Scott Thornton created the first opportunity, but he, Marcel Goc and Alyn McCauley could not score.
Mark Smith had a one-on-one showdown with Hasek after skating around a defenseman on the rush, but he could not score either. Hasek saved his best for 1:18 of five-on-three time for the Sharks. It appeared that San Jose had two shots to beat the Czech netminder, but despite facing nine shots in the games first nine minutes, Hasek kept the game even.
Ottawa would get there first man advantage when Hasek faked contact on a play and fell to the ice. Mark Smith was whistled for goaltender interference, but the penalty killers never let the powerful Senators power play threaten and did their turn in not allowing the go-ahead goal.
Team Teal was forced to kill off a second straight penalty, but the Senators had no better luck and the squads would enter the first intermission just as the game started, tied at zero.
The second period began on the man advantage for the home club, but Nabokov was stellar, stopping two point blank opportunities.
Again Hasek was up to the challenge at the other end as he watched the Sharks circle around him, but kept the puck out.
All the action seemed to come at even strength during the contest and that is how the first goal came. The Sharks Captain picked off a pass by Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson and was off to the races. He forced Hasek to commit, then put the puck backhand and lifted it upstairs for the 1-0 lead.
That would be all the scoring for the period despite quality efforts on both sides. Hasek had to rely on the post to keep a Joe Thornton
shot from going with under a minute left and Nabokov had to come up big as well.
Nabokov made the play of the game just a couple of minutes into the third. A shot that got behind him was sliding toward the goal line, however, San Jose’s netminder reached behind himself and snagged the puck before it hit the red line.
The save by Nabokov seemed to inspire the Sharks on the other end. Joe Thornton
and Nils Ekman found themselves on a two-on-one. After Thornton fed Ekman, the winger returned the puck. Thornton held possession until the very last moment, forcing Hasek to play the pass, and then shuffled the puck to the driving Ekman who banged it in the empty net.
San Jose was completely controlling the third period and Ottawa could not put much pressure on Nabokov until Doug Murray was called for clearing the puck into the stands with five minutes remaining. During the two minutes, Ottawa mounted their best power play of the game, but again, Nabokov was the answer on every quality shot.
When Ottawa was called for a penalty with 30 seconds remaining it sealed their fate as San Jose closed out the contest 2-0 for their fifth win in a row. San Jose has not lost a game all season when leading by two goals and will attempt to run their winning streak to six Saturday when the travel to Montreal.
The Saturday Montreal contest will be televised on FSN Bay Area at 4 p.m. and can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.