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Sharks Team Defense Preserves 2-1 Win Over Wild

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
The Sharks won their second game in as many nights downing the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night 2-1 behind solid team defense anchored by goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
 
Click here for video highlights from Wednesday’s game.

 
Coming off consecutive shutouts over the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues, Head Coach Ron Wilson continued with his rotating goaltender tandem, summoning Nabokov to defend the Sharks net. In the Minnesota goal opposite Nabokov was Manny Fernandez.
 
Sharks fans would receive some good news before the game even began as it was announced that left wing Milan Michalek was set to make his return to the lineup. Michalek returned after missing a week with a sore arm after colliding with Anaheim center Todd Marchant and awkwardly crashing into the boards.
 
The good news for Sharks fans was short lived as Minnesota scored the first goal of the game just two minutes and 54 seconds after the opening faceoff. Wild forward Mattias Weinhandl picked Josh Gorges’ pocket at the blueline in the Minnesota zone and pushed the puck through the neutral zone with speed. The crafty winger then buried a slapper from the top of the circles into the Sharks, giving the Wild the early 1-0 lead.
 
The Sharks responded quickly after sacrificing the early goal, drawing a hooking penalty on Miika Koivu and earning the first man advantage of the game five and a half minutes into the opening frame.
 
It was strength against strength on the ensuing power play as the League’s top power play unit was pitted against the League’s second-best penalty killing unit. In the end it was the top-ranked power play unit that prevailed, needing just 49 seconds to convert as rookie center Joe Pavelski scored his third goal in just his fourth game with the Sharks to knot the game at 1-1.
 
A relentless forecheck by right wing Steve Bernier forced Minnesota defenseman Martin Skoula to rush his clearing attempt. The puck was smoothly controlled by defenseman Matt Carle, who gathered the puck at the half boards to Fernandez’s right and fired it on net. Pavelski was camped out in perfect position in front of the Wild net to deflect Carle’s shot and was able to redirect the puck past Fernandez who had no chance on the play.
 
As the period went on, Minnesota controlled the puck in the Sharks zone for extended periods of time and looked to strike. But the Wild were unable to earn any quality scoring chances, only registering six shots on the Sharks goaltender in the first stanza. The period came to a close with the two teams tied at 1-1.
 
Team Teal opened the second stanza and immediately regained the control they relinquished in the late stages of the first. Five minutes in, the Sharks began taking the play to the Wild with a pair of flurries in front of Fernandez, but the Wild goaltender was up to the challenge, keeping it a 1-1 game.
 
However, a Sharks strike seemed inevitable as San Jose’s defensemen began activating from all areas of the ice. Though the Wild survived the early flurries by the Sharks, a simple clearing attempt broke the 1-1 tie.
 
Seven minutes into the second, Wild defenseman Petteri Nummelin chased down a puck in his own zone and chipped the puck to center, trying to catch San Jose on a change. Christian Ehrhoff pinched from the Sharks backline, went down on one knee to control the bouncing puck, and moved into the Wild zone on his off wing. Drawing the Wild defenders towards him, Ehrhoff rifled a 40-foot backhand pass to a streaking Steve Bernier. The puck careened off Bernier’s right shin pad and ended up in the Wild net behind Fernandez giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
 
Smelling blood in the water, the Sharks went on back on the attack. The Sharks drew consecutive penalties against the Wild and despite sustained pressure, were unable to extend their lead. As the period came to a close, the discrepancy in chances was evident with the Sharks out shooting the Wild 16-3 in the second stanza and leading 2-1 after 40 minutes of play.
 
As they did in the second the Sharks got out to a quick start and dictated play. Eight minutes into the third the Sharks looked to strike again, drawing consecutive tripping minors on Weinhandl and Nick Shultz just 13 seconds apart. However the story of the minute and 47 second five-on-three advantage was the Wild penalty killing. Individual efforts by Brian Rolston and Skoula slowed the Sharks attack as the Wild were able to diffuse the pressure.
 
Minnesota gained some much needed momentum from the fans after killing the two-man advantage and registered a pair of shits with sustained pressure in the Sharks end. But the San Jose defense made sure that no shots got through to Nabokov.
 
Textbook defensive positioning and a pair of key faceoff wins in the defensive zone by Curtis Brown and Joe Thornton iced the 2-1 victory for the Sharks. The victory gave the Sharks their fourth four-game winning streak of the season improving their record to 19-7-0.
 
SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
Wednesday’s game marked the second time the Sharks had been broadcast on VERSUS this season. Also for the second time this season, Head Coach Ron Wilson was featured on the air and engaged in a live interview with the VERSUS crew during the second period while play was going on. And for the second time, the Sharks walked away from the experience with a 2-1 road victory.
 
THE NEW WORKOUT PLAN
Jonathan Cheechoo will be featured in the December/January issue of Men’s Fitness set to hit stands at the end of this week. In addition to the feature story written on the Sharks winger, Cheechoo is prominently shown pumping iron in his five-page “The Bare Essentials Workout” spread.
 
LINEUP
Milan Michalek was activated off the injured reserve list and put back into the Sharks lineup after missing a week with a sore arm. In a related move, defenseman Doug Murray went on the IR with an upper respiratory infection. Murray will be eligible to return for the Dec. 7 game when the Sharks return home to host the Colorado Avalanche.
 
Jonathan Cheechoo remained on the IR with a sore leg, but is still listed as day-to-day. Cheechoo can be activated off the IR at any time since he has already sat out the mandatory seven days.
 
Michalek – Thornton – Grier
Marleau – Pavelski – Bernier
Bell – Goc - Rissmiller
Clowe – Brown - Smith
 
Carle – McLaren
Vlasic – Ehrhoff
Hannan – Gorges
 
Nabokov – Toskala
 
NEXT GAME
The Sharks continue on to Detroit, the third stop of their four-game road trip, to face the Red Wings on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the storied Joe Louis Arena. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (Pacific) and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.
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