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Nabokov perfect in emergency duty
Sharks extend lead in Pacific with 3-1 win over LA
3/13/04 - by Mike Lee

Evgeni Nabokov's last four appearances in net have been less than spectacular, so Sharks head coach Ron Wilson decided to give his starting goaltender the afternoon off on Saturday. Nabokov's rest day turned into a 20 minute absence from the ice, after Vesa Toskala sustained what the Sharks are calling a lower body injury in the first period versus the visiting Los Angeles Kings. The mid-game call to action resulted in a spectacular 25 save performance for Nabokov, which helped the Sharks skate to a 3-1 at HP Pavilion. The win also extended the Sharks lead in the Pacific Division to five points.

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1 2 3 T
LA 1 0 0 1
SJ 2 1 0 3
1st period - S.J, DIMITRAKOS (7) (MARLEAU, DAMPHOUSSE), 05:20 L.A, CORVO (7) (FROLOV, STUMPEL), 09:35 S.J, EKMAN (17) (MCLAREN, KOROLYUK), 10:13
2nd period - S.J, MCCAULEY (17) (EKMAN, RATHJE), 09:23
3rd period - NONE
1st period - L.A, KLATT, 04:32 - Hooking S.J, MCLAREN, 14:40 - Hi stick S.J, EKMAN, 19:46 - Hi stick S.J, EKMAN, 19:46 - Hi stick
2nd period - L.A, BELANGER, 05:04 - Holding stick S.J, DIMITRAKOS, 05:16 - Hi stick
3rd period - S.J, S.J, 09:01 - Too many men/ice - bench
  Shots Saves
LA - Huet 27 24
SJ - Toskala 8 7
SJ - Nabokov 25 25
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
LA 8 12 13 33
SJ 6 11 10 27
Power Play Conversion
LA 0 of 5
SJ 1 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Nils Ekman
Kyle McLaren
Evgeni Nabokov
Toskala faced on eight shots, allowing a lone goal to Kings defenseman Joe Corvo, but the abbreviated stint was good enough to earn Toskala the win as the Sharks outscored the Kings 2-1 in the period.

Niko Dimitrakos and Nils Ekman tallied goals in the period, providing all the offense the Sharks would need.

Dimitrakos parked a shot from the blueline past Kings goaltender Cristobal Huet on the power play after Trent Klatt was sent off for hooking. Huet was busy trying to keep a clear line of sight in front of his crease while two Sharks tried screening the goaltender. Dimitrakos sent a blast that sailed over Huet's right shoulder for a 1-0 Sharks lead.

Corvo would convert for the Kings at 9:35 of the period on a shot from the slot, but San Jose responded less than a minute later when Kyle McLaren sent a laser pass from the top of the right circle to Ekman on the far post. Ekman gathered in the pass then fired a shot from point blank range passed a sprawling Huet.

The Kings had a golden opportunity to draw even at the start of the 2nd period after Ekman cut Alexander Frolov with a high stick, drawing a four minute double minor. A stingy Sharks penalty kill would help the Kings squander the opportunity by preventing Los Angeles from even getting a shot off during the extended man-advantage.

Ekman would atone for his mistake by team up with Alyn McCauley for an insurance goal midway through the 2nd period. Defenseman Mike Rathje started things off by feeding a pass to Ekman on the right wing boards. As he was about to get snuffed out by a Kings defender, Ekman backhanded the puck to a cutting McCauley at the face of the Kings goal. McCauley redirected the pass past Huet for the 3-1 lead.

Los Angeles tried mounting a comeback in the 3rd period, but Nabokov played his best period of hockey in the last two weeks by shutting down several Kings scoring chances.

Play of the Game
The passing on both the Ekman and McCauley goals was superb and the precision paid huge dividends for the Sharks. On McLaren's pass to Ekman in the 1st period, the Sharks defenseman casually carried the puck up ice before whipping the puck 50 feet diagonally through the slot, hitting Ekman in stride. Ekman would follow that up with another pinpoint dart on McCauley's goal.

The Turning Point
Toskala's injury may have been more than a turning point in the game. It may have served as a huge motivator for Nabokov. His play had to serve as a confidence booster given his lack of success over the prior two weeks.

Save of the Game
Nabokov used plain old fundamental technique in shutting the door on several shots in the last three minutes of the game. His biggest save came on a Jozef Stumpel one timer from ten feet out with less than a minute to play. The Kings had an extra attacker over the final three minutes of regulation after Kings head coach pulled Huet in order to make up the two goal deficit, but Nabokov made save after save to preserve the Sharks lead.

Box Scores Do No Justice
Newly acquired forward Curtis Brown has slipped comfortably into his role along side Sharks captain Patrick Marleau. Brown continued to impress the home fans with hustle and a willingness to throw his body around. Marleau's goal drought continued on Saturday, but the Brown-Marleau-Dimitrakos line was buzzing all afternoon.

Honorable Mention
The Sharks win was the second in three games versus the Kings this season (the two teams also tied 4-4 in Los Angeles back on December 27th), but the two teams will face off three more time this season, including the regular season finale in San Jose on April 4th.

"I was a little worried when I took over. But I started to feel more and more confident as the game went on." - Evgeni Nabokov

"Some football teams use two quarterbacks. I was concerned when we put Nabokov in because he's been struggling so much. But maybe the day off helped him." - Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

"We failed to finish our opportunities. We had ample opportunities to put pucks behind Nabokov in the last two periods but couldn't get that done." - Kings head coach Andy Murray

Jason Marshall made his debut for San Jose after being acquired from Minnesota on March 3rd

Luc Robataille skated in his 1,000th game for the Kings.

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