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Sharks avoid 3rd straight loss
SJ handles Florida's early pressure
2/3/04 - by Mike Lee

The Florida Panthers were keenly aware of the Sharks propensity for quick starts, so their game plan entering Tuesday night's game at HP Pavilion was to go on the offensive and take away early opportunities. Good idea in principle, but the Panthers failed to capitalize on their dominance on the ice in the 1st period, as the Sharks would whittle out a 3-0 win on goals by Nils Ekman, Alyn McCauley and Marco Sturm. Evgeni Nabokov would stop 26 shots en route to his 6th shutout of the season, one shy of the franchise mark he set in the 2001-02 season.

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1 2 3 T
FLA 0 0 0 0
SJ 1 1 1 3
1st period - S.J, EKMAN (13) (PARKER, PRIMEAU), 12:54
2nd period - S.J, MCCAULEY (13) (EKMAN, STUART), 10:16
3rd period - S.J, STURM (13) (MARLEAU, RATHJE), 12:05
1st period - S.J, NABOKOV, 02:43 - Slashing FLA, AUDETTE, 03:40 - Interference S.J, PARKER, 06:50 - Interference FLA, HAGMAN, 10:24 - Interference
2nd period - S.J, HANNAN, 05:34 - Cross check FLA, HORDICHUK, 05:34 - Interference - Goaltender FLA, BURE, 07:21 - Hi stick
3rd period - FLA, BURE, 00:42 - Slashing FLA, RITCHIE, 02:59 - Interference S.J, MCCAULEY, 11:20 - Holding
  Shots Saves
FLA - Luongo 28 25
SJ - Nabokov 26 26
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
FLA 11 3 12 26
SJ 6 10 12 28
Power Play Conversion
FLA 0 of 3
SJ 0 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Nils Ekman
Evgani Nabokov
Alyn McCauley
The Panthers opened the game by trying to dictate the flow and out-skate the Sharks, but San Jose team speed helped to match Florida's offensive tactics. The Panthers would outshoot the Sharks 11-6 in the period and had several quality chances in the opening moments of the game, but San Jose weathered the storm and found a chink in the Panthers attack at 12:54 of the period when Ekman delivered his 14th of the season.

Wayne Primeau started the sequence by skating the puck around the Panthers net then winding a pass to Scott Parker in the slot. Parker caught Ekman perched just outside the right post, and fed a pass over to the Swedish forward from the top of the crease. Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo committed too early on Parker, and could only watch as Ekman controlled the puck from six feet out then roofed a shot over Luongo's left pad.

The Sharks picked up the pace in the 2nd period, outshooting Florida 10-3 in the period. The Panthers had a golden opportunity to score midway through the period when Niklas Hagman tried converting on a breakaway, but Nabokov stuffed him on the goal line. The Sharks would immediately counter attack and score seconds later.

Brad Stuart carried the puck up the right wing boards and left a drop-pass for Ekman near the right dot. As Stuart circled toward the net, Ekman backhanded a pass to the slot, hitting McCauley for a bang-bang redirect past a diving Luongo.

Sturm would pad the Sharks lead midway through the 3rd period after Patrick Marleau bounced a clearing pass up the right wing boards while the Sharks were killing a holding penalty on McCauley. Sturm grabbed Marleau's pass then raced up the right wing. He tried to center the puck back to Marleau in the slot, but had to hold and circle around the Panthers net. Sturm looked as if he momentarily lost the handle on the puck and had to reach out to grab control of it before stopping at the bottom of the left circle and snapping home his 14th goal of the season.

Alexander Korolyuk almost added to San Jose's lead late in the game, but he was hauled down at the end of his own breakaway. Korolyuk was awarded a penalty shot, but his free chance was snuffed by Luongo.

Play of the Game
Ekman's backhanded pass to McCauley from the right wing boards happened so fast that Luongo was forced to dive across the slot in order to defend against the scoring chance. McCauley's redirect of the pass capped one of those scoring sequences that make you shake your head and wonder how that kind of precision can occur in the blink of an eye.

The Turning Point
Ekman's goal really took the wind out of Florida's sails after they had tried desperately to land a knockout punch in the opening period. Credit the Sharks with a regiment of tight back checking and patience. The Sharks didn't try to force the issue by making risky passes on the counter attack in order to capitalize on turnovers. Rather, they controlled the puck back to their blueliners and worked the puck up ice.

Save of the Game
Nabokov's stop on Hagman kept the score at 1-0 for a brief moment, then allowed the Sharks to convert on the ensuing rush up the ice. Not only was it a nice stop, but it turned what couled have been a 1-1 game into a 2-0 Sharks lead.

Box Scores Do No Justice
Ekman sprinted for the dressing room after Valerie Bure laid a slash on Ekman's wrist. The Sharks winger immediately dropped his stick and both gloves on the ice before heading straight to the trainer.

Honorable Mention
Interference was the penalty of the evening for referee Denis LaRue. Half of the ten penalties handed out included some form of interference. The Panthers were guilty of four interference infractions, including a goaltender interference call against Darcy Hordichuk early int eh 2nd period.

"We probably get spoiled because the goaltending is so good. That allows us to stay on the offensive side." - Alyn McCauley

"We come down, had a really good chance to score and it never fails. They get the save and then they come back and get the goal. It's obviously tough." - Panthers defenseman Lyle Odelein

"We played a great first period. Unfortunately we couldn't get one into the net." - Panthers head coach Rick Dudley

Sturm tied Owen Nolan's franchise record with his 13th career short handed goal.

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