San Jose opened the first of three games this week against the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night and came away with a 2-1 shootout victory. After falling twice previously to the Ducks in the shootout this year, San Jose prevailed when Joe Thornton
scored as the Sharks sixth shooter. Evgeni Nabokov was stellar all night long in stopping 30 of 31 Ducks shots, and turning aside four of six shootout shots.
“Every time we play Anaheim, it is a big-time atmosphere,” said Thornton. “Both teams were mentally ready.”
Nabokov stared across at Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the nets and Rob Davison rejoined the lineup as a forward. The contest also marked the debut of Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer this season.
The Ducks struck first on a Bobby Ryan tally, giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead at 13:41 of the first period. Newly acquired Ducks center Doug Weight got the primary assist on the goal. San Jose’s offense began revving up late in the first, drawing multiple penalties and Milan Michalek earned a penalty shot. Giguere stopped the penalty shot and held off the visiting Sharks to keep the lead in tact at the first break.
The lead could have gone to 2-0 early in the second, but Nabokov matched Ryan Getzlaf move for move on a breakaway.
San Jose evened the score on a phenomenal shorthanded tally by Torrey Mitchell
in the middle stanza. While killing off a power play, Mitchell took the puck on a breakaway, was knocked down by a tripping penalty, got back on his feet, put a deke on Giguere and deposited the puck in the back of the net at 5:13 of the period. It was one of the most impressive shorthanded goals in Sharks history.
“When I fell down, the D-man fell down too,” said Mitchell. “I looked up and the puck we still in front of me. I went in alone and had time to make a move.”
Mitchell had scored his first career goal earlier this season against the Ducks and it marked the third game the rookie had scored against the division rivals.
“I guess I’ve got their number,” said Mitchell. “The first couple I got were just deflections, so I not going to start bragging.”
San Jose came close several times to taking the lead in the second as they had almost six consecutive minutes of power play time, but they were foiled by Giguere and a goal post. Team Teal would carry 1:10 of power play time into the final stanza, but that would come up empty as well.
Both clubs has power play opportunities in the third for a chance to find the game-winner. Milan Michalek forced Scott Niedermayer to take a penalty for San Jose’s two minutes and they threw everything at Giguere, but the Quebec netminder had the answers. Nabokov was also equal to the task on a late Ducks power play as the clubs headed to overtime.
In the final minute of overtime, Nabokov must have felt like the ice was tilted in his direction as the Ducks had chance after chance, but he turned each one away and the clubs headed for the shootout.
It was there that Nabokov was at his best, turning aside four of six Ducks shooters while Joe Pavelski
, Patrick Marleau
and Thornton scored to give San Jose the victory.
“Nabby was great all game,” said Mitchell. “In the shootout, Nabby really stepped up individually.”
Thornton sealed the deal with his perfectly placed shot.
“I saw Patty go far post and I figured I would copy him,” said Thornton.
Pavelski’s shootout tally was the Sharks first against the Ducks in 11 previous shootout chances. All three Sharks-Ducks games this season have gone to the shootout, with Sunday’s game being the Sharks first victory.
The Sharks play Anaheim a total of three times in a seven day period counting Sunday’s contest.
BACK IN FIRST
The victory propelled the Sharks back into a first place tie with Dallas in the Pacific Division race.
The Sharks will have a rematch with the Ducks Tuesday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Limited tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.