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Sharks turn the tables on Blues
Fortunes reversed for both teams
2/29/04 - by Mike Lee

The St Louis Blues are feeling some of the frustrations the Sharks went through last year. Granted, the Blues weren't predicted to be a front-runner for the Stanley Cup, but few envisioned the collapse they've endured this season. The Sharks are all too familiar with unmet expectations, but they continued to contrast that ill-fated season with another win. The Sharks patient attack outlasted the Blues, en route to a 1-0 win at HP Pavilion on Sunday afternoon. It was the first time the Sharks shutout the Blues in franchise history.

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1 2 3 T
STL 0 0 0 0
SJ 0 0 1 1
1st period - NONE
2nd period - NONE
3rd period - S.J, CHEECHOO (18) (MARLEAU), 00:41
1st period - S.J, EKMAN, 16:08 - Hi stick STL, WEINRICH, 18:15 - Holding
2nd period - S.J, DAVISON, 10:54 - Interference
3rd period - STL, MELLANBY, 04:34 - Charging S.J, SMITH, 08:22 - Tripping STL, MAYERS, 11:04 - Cross check S.J, HARVEY, 11:04 - Fighting (maj) S.J, HARVEY, 11:04 - Hi stick STL, MAYERS, 11:04 - Fighting (maj)
  Shots Saves
STL - Osgood 18 17
SJ - Nabokov 24 24
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 9 9 6 24
SJ 9 5 4 18
Power Play Conversion
STL 0 of 3
SJ 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Evgeni Nabokov
Jonthan Cheechoo
Patrick Marleau
Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov set a franchise record with his 8th shutout this season, the 25th of his career. Nabokov made 24 saves, but it was the defense in front of him that clamped down on the Blues in crunch time. St Louis could only muster six shots on goal in the 3rd period after the Sharks had scored early in the period. The Blues were coming off a 2-0 shutout in Vancouver less than 24 hours earlier, but energy didn't appear to be an issue early on. The two teams swapped nine shots a piece in the opening period.

Both teams started the 3rd period locked in a scoreless tie, but Jonathan Cheechoo provided the Sharks all the offense they would need 41 seconds into the final stanza. Steve Martins muffed a pass in the St Louis zone that would prove costly. Martins tried feeding the puck up ice after it took a weird hop off the left wing boards, but Patrick Marleau intercepted the pass in the high slot. Rather than force the issue, Marleau caught Cheechoo breaking on the off wing and slid a backhanded pass to Cheechoo in the slot. Cheechoo then ripped a one-timer past Chris Osgood for the game's lone goal.

The goal extended Cheechoo's scoring streak to seven games.

Osgood had escaped a scare in the opening period when Alexander Korolyuk missed on a 1-on-1 shot from 15 feet out after side stepping a Blues defender in the right circle. The Blues goaltender wouldn't be so lucky two periods later. He would only face 18 shots on the evening, but his teammates failed to provide any offensive support.

The Blues tried to pick up the pace in the waning moments of the game but Nabokov came up big. Nabokov made his biggest save with 3:30 to play, when he gloved a Doug Weight shot from the slot.

Play of the Game
Had Korolyuk finished on his 1st period scoring chance he would have received the honors for the evening, but Cheechoo's goal earned the Sharks their win. Cheechoo's shot was placed perfectly, snapping past Osgood's glove hand. Give credit to the HP Pavilion boards for causing the sequence to kickoff in the fashion that it did. Weird bounce. Weird season for both teams.

The Turning Point
The goaltending play of both Nabokov and Osgood made this game so intriguing, but it was fatigue that may have played the biggest part in the game's outcome. Both teams were playing their third game in the last four nights, but the Blues were playing in back-to-back contests. The energy levels on both teams seemed to fizzle as the game wore on.

Save of the Game
Nabokov's stop on the Weight shot late in the 3rd period helped preserve the Sharks lead and sunk the dagger into the Blues' backs. St Louis' shot production in he final period was thin enough, but stops like that took the steam out of the road weary Blues.

Box Scores Do No Justice
The injury bug looked as if it could sting the Sharks again, when Mike Rathje and Korolyuk suffered leg ailments during the contest. Rathje's looked to be the most severe. The Sharks defenseman crumpled to the ice after taking a shot off his lower leg in the 1st period and lay there face down for several seconds as play continued. Korolyuk also suffered a leg injury and had to walk off the injury in the Sharks tunnel. Linesman Brad Kovachik wasn't so lucky. He suffered an injury to his jaw after taking a puck off his mug three minutes into the game.

Honorable Mention
Sharks fans appear to be coming out of their season long fog and realizing that the Sharks are leading the Pacific Division, albeit by a mere six points. The Tank was sold out for the second consecutive game, which is the first time that's happened this season. Fans enjoyed themselves by booing Blues defenseman Chris Pronger every time he touched the puck.

"Sometimes you've got to be standing in the right place, or all your hard work doesn't matter. We earned the opportunity we got, but it's part luck, too." - Jonathan Cheechoo

"It was a toe-to-toe game, and one mistake can cost you a game like that. The shutout is good, but it's more important for the two points. We're in a pretty good position to climb up (the conference standings), but as soon as you start thinking you're up there, you find yourself down at the other end." - Evgeni Nabokov

"We're having a hard time just getting a garbage goal. We had a good power play there. We had maybe two or three real good chances. We hit the post. Maybe it's a garbage goal that turns it around for us." - St Louis head coach Mike Kitchen

Nabokov's shutout was his 8th of the season, a new franchise record.

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