Sharks 2, Canucks 1

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—Patrick Marleau wasted little time earning the new `C’ on his sweater.

Marleau, playing for the first time since being named temporary San Jose captain for the next 10 games, scored with 38.6 seconds left, lifting the Sharks to a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

“Yeah, I look like a genius,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “You couldn’t get a bigger goal at a better time than that.”

San Jose wing Nicholas Dimitrakos started the winning play by pressuring Trevor Linden into a turnover just inside the Vancouver blue line. Marleau pounced on the loose puck and beat Dan Cloutier under the left pad with a 25-foot wrist shot.

“Yeah, that’s not too bad a start,” Marleau said of his captaincy. “It was a good job by Niko forcing him up the boards and the puck squirted loose. I was just trying to get a shot off quick and it found it’s way in.”

Cloutier finished with 17 stops for the Canucks, who were playing their seventh game in 11 nights, but Linden put the blame for the loss—Vancouver’s third straight at home—squarely on his own shoulders.

“It was a crucial mistake at the wrong time of the game and it cost our team points,” Linden said of the late turnover.

Scott Thornton tied it 8:46 into the third period—just 92 seconds after Henrik Sedin opened the scoring for Vancouver—and the Sharks improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games.

“It was tight throughout the game and we stick with it and luckily we got the win,” said Marleau, who leads San Jose with 18 goals and 29 points.

Vesa Toskala, starting his second straight game after No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov left the team to attend a funeral in Toronto, had to be good and lucky as the Canucks outshot San Jose 38-17.

“There was a couple of tough ones too,” said Toskala, who improved to 8-4-4.

Toskala was at his best in the second period as the Canucks outshot the Sharks 14-4 thanks to a 4-1 advantage in power plays, robbing Markus Naslund on a breakaway and stuffing Todd Bertuzzi twice in close to keep it scoreless.

Toskala also got help when San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart used his stick to stop Artem Chubarov’s shot at an empty net on the goal line in the second, and picked Mike Keane’s sharp-angle shot out of the air in the third.

“A little bit of luck, too, but that’s what we need sometimes,” Toskala said. “A couple of crazy bounces and Stuey saved me two times from the goal lines.”

After two-plus periods filled with great saves and near misses at both ends, Sedin finally opened the scoring by outfighting Alexander Korolyuk’s backcheck and stuffing a rebound behind Toskala 7:14 into the third.

But Thornton, who had just been robbed by Cloutier on a breakaway two minutes earlier, atoned quickly. Thornton, who had scored only one goal in his previous 25 games, found a soft spot in the high slot and one-timed Jonathon Cheechoo’s pass from behind the net over Cloutier’s outstretched glove.

“We had a missed assignment on their goal and yet it didn’t seem to deter us,” Wilson said. “We get a nice play from Cheechoo to Thornton to score.”

Marleau started strong in his debut as captain, ringing a shot off the post in the opening minutes. He came inches from scoring again six minutes later when Cloutier got a piece of his shot and batted the rebound out of the air just before it crossed the goal line.

“Patty has earned it,” Wilson said of the captaincy. “He was solid all night long, hit a post in the first, made a lot of nice plays, was playingphysical and you like to see somebody who’s working that hard be rewarded.”

Notes

Nabokov will rejoin the team in San Jose on Tuesday. The Sharks were also missing D Kyle McLaren, who returned to San Jose to have a rib injury checked after he was hurt Friday in Chicago. The team recalled D Jim Fahey from Cleveland of the AHL, but he didn’t play. … Sharks backup G Nolan Schaefer, recalled from Fresno of the ECHL, is the younger brother of former Canuck andcurrent Ottawa forward Peter Schaefer.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
P. Marleau P. Marleau
San Jose Sharks
Scored at 19:21 of 3rd

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Dan Cloutier Det 19 17