San Jose used a 4-1 victory in Chicago, thanks to two goals each by Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, to move within four points of Pacific Division leading Anaheim . Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 of 29 shots for the win.
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Team Teal would jump on the scoreboard first thanks to a monumental effort by Joe Thornton. The defending NHL scoring champ, held the puck behind the net, skated out high, then went back through the slot, before finding Scott Hannan at the point.
The veteran blueliner then fed Cheechoo at the low slot and he beat Patrick Lalime upstairs.
Chicago was firing away at Nabokov and, following 10 consecutive saves, found the tying tally. Nabokov made a strong initial save, but when the puck couldn’t be cleared, Patrick Sharp grabbed it in the slot and rifled one to the back of the net.
Period one ended tied at one.
The Blackhawks would have found themselves up a goal early in the second, but Nabokov made an unbelievable stop on a breakaway, sprawling across the ice for the stop.
Chicago put the NHL’s most dangerous power play out for three straight second period opportunities and the Sharks made them pay. This goal came when Michalek was parked in front and simply redirected the pass coming through the crease. San Jose was up 2-1 again.
Team Teal was then forced to fend off a high-sticking double minor to Kyle McLaren and Chicago put their best shot on net with five seconds remaining in the four minutes. On the play, the puck bounced off two players, and through Nabokov’s legs. It then took a fortuitous bounce back into the crease where Nabokov covered it.
The second ended as the first did, with San Jose up a goal.
Following an early post shot by Bill Guerin in the third, Steve Bernier drew a penalty while driving the net to put the Sharks on the power play. And again the Sharks made Chicago pay.
A Thornton pass bounced off Matt Carle in the slot and went right to Cheechoo. The Moose Factory, Ontario product then put it short side for the Sharks first two goal lead of the night.
Michalek joined Cheechoo with a second tally of his own in the third. For this marker, Thornton peeled around the net and fed the wide-open Czech in front. With no defender around, Michalek took his time and recorded the fourth multi-goal game of his career.
That would close out the scoring as the Sharks would have a happy flight to Carolina thanks to the 4-1 victory.
UP TO SECOND
Thanks to his three helpers against Chicago, Thornton is now second in the NHL’s scoring race with 99 points. Only Pittsburgh ’s Sidney Crosby leads the Sharks scoring center.
Mark Bell and Curtis Brown returned to the city they played in for the 2005-06 season.
The Sharks return to the ice Thursday with a 4 p.m. start against the Atlanta Thrashers. The game will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.