SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Though Evgeni Nabokov’s shot still needs a little work, not much else has been wrong with the San Jose goalie since his return to the lineup.
Jonathan Cheechoo also scored a late power-play goal for the Sharks, who extended their franchise-record home unbeaten streak to eight games (4-0-4) with a conservative victory.
Nabokov was solid in his second start following a three-week absence with a groin injury. He made several big saves in the third period, holding on for his 19th career shutout—his first since a 0-0 tie with Philadelphia on Oct. 16.
Nabokov even took a shot at the Ducks’ empty net with 45 seconds left, trying to duplicate the power-play goal he scored against Vancouver two seasons ago. Nabokov’s try missed wide right—and his teammates didn’t plan to let him forget it any time soon.
“I was going for it, but I’m not upset,” Nabokov said. “I just try and do my job out there. In a game like that when the score is 1-0, every save is more important.”
Nabokov returned Thursday for a 2-2 tie with Edmonton, stopping 42 shots in his first game back. Backup Vesa Toskala was impressive in his absence, and coach Ron Wilson plans to use both goalies frequently for the foreseeable future.
“He didn’t make any mistakes,” Wilson said of Nabokov. “He handled the puck really well—and he should have scored.”
With a healthy Nabokov and impressive backup Vesa Toskala, the Sharks seem well-prepared for their upcoming stretch with eight of 11 games on the road— particularly after a sound performance against Anaheim, which had won five straight over the Sharks.
“We played good for a whole 60 minutes this time,” said Cheechoo, who scored with 5 1/2 minutes to play. “We weren’t always back on our heels, like we’ve been in some games. We got our offense going.”
Martin Gerber stopped 23 shots for the Ducks, who hadn’t played since a 3-2 win over the Sharks on Wednesday. In the second of four games in 13 days between the Pacific Division rivals, San Jose beat Anaheim for the first time since last Dec. 26.
“We’re not prepared to play on the road,” Anaheim captain Steve Rucchin said. “Things are tougher on the road. We have to prove we can win out here, but we don’t seem to have the same intensity we have at home.”
The Sharks scored just 2:02 after the opening faceoff. Anaheim defenseman Niclas Havelid gave away the puck to Korolyuk, who raced past two Ducks and beat Gerber with a quick shot for an unassisted goal.
It was just the third goal of the season—the first since Nov. 18—for Korolyuk, who played last season in his native Russia after clashing with former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter.
Anaheim got one shot on goal in the first 11 minutes, and the defending Western Conference champions never got in a rhythm. The Ducks played without injured regulars Rob Niedermayer, Sandis Ozolinsh and Keith Carney.
“It was a 1-0 game until the end,” Ducks coach Mike Babcock said. “They came out and jumped in control. The bottom line was that we never capitalized on our opportunities. Playing on the road is still an issue for us.”
Cheechoo capped the victory with an inventive goal, beating Vitaly Vishnevski with a phenomenal deke before roofing the puck behind Gerber. Cheechoo, in his second full NHL season, is third on the Sharks with eight goals.
“The more you play, you get a little more confident each game,” Cheechoo said. “Things just fall into place. Luckily, (Gerber) pulled off the postfirst, and I was able to squeak it by him.”
The Sharks haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their last eight games, but they’re 4-2-2 over that span. … San Jose D Kyle McLaren was scratched for the second straight game with a sore knee. … Korolyuk got his 10th goal in 17 career games against Anaheim. … The teams play back-to-back, home-and-home games on Dec. 21 and 22—and then don’t meet again until March19.