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Sharks win ugly
11 out of 12 points recorded on homestand
3/19/06 - by Mike Lee

Ugly wins are still worth two points in the standings, so the Sharks can be excused for not turning in the prettiest performance by any stretch of the imagination. San Jose found a way to get the job done on Sunday night, even after coughing up a three goal lead to the visiting Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion. Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov returned after a five game hiatus to mend an abdominal strain, earning the win after surrendering five goals. Nabokov can thank his teammates after they pasted a six spot on Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj.

Nabokov brushed off the rust and helped the Sharks earn their eleventh point out of twelve to close out their six-game homestand. The 6-5 win still leaves the Sharks on the outside looking in at the top eight playoff positions, but are now within two points of the 8th position after Anaheim beat Columbus and Vancouver was throttled by the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

"It was that way," he said. "Nabby was a little bit rusty out there. But at the end, he made some big saves for us and really earned the win," said Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.

The Sharks also let the Avalanche know that they're back in the race. Only four points separates the 5th seeded Avalanche from San Jose. Having traded David Aebisheer and with Jose Theodore on the fence, the Avalanche have had to rely on Budaj in net. The Sharks took advantage of his inexperience with a barrage of goals on 33 shots.

"It was one of those nights," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "A lot of goals went in for both teams. Every chance seemed to go in. Eleven goals is a lot of goals."

Tom Preissing started things six minutes into the contest with a blast that hit Budaj in the shoulder, before floating into the Colorado net. Pierre Turgeon knotted things up when he intercepted a horrible clearing attempt by Christian Ehrhoff, and snapped a shot home from the right faceoff circle.

Budaj would then put the Avalanche in a huge hole by surrendering three straight goals. Scott Hannan fired a rocket at 14:09, that beat Budaj down low, shaving the right post. Jonathan Cheechoo put the Sharks up 3-1 84 seconds later with a one-timer from the slot, after Joe Thornton set him up with a pass from the right corner.

San Jose would start the 2nd period on a power play and captain Patrick Marleau would bag the first of two goals on the mad-advantage 1:44 in. The play was setup by a perfectly executed pair of passes in the middle of the zone. Steve Bernier started things by dishing the puck from the end boards to Milan Michalek who was parked on the left dot. Michalek then slipped a pass to Marleau, who was cutting in across the slot from right to left. Budaj could only flail at Marleau's 400th career point.

Milan Hejduk and Ian Laperriere would score for Colorado, to cut the Sharks lead to 4-3, before Marleau would strike again. This time, he was setup with a beautiful drop pass from Bernier who was breaking in on net with Jim Dowd draped all over him. Marleau was trailing on the play, and simply poked home the puck from the slot.

Laperriere would cut the Sharks lead to 5-4 with just under four minutes remaining in the period by redirecting a shot by Kurt Sauer. It would be one of two goals Nabokov should have stopped.

Things got worse for San Jose midway through the final period when John-Michael Liles pumped a slapper from the blue line that beat Nabokov via the five-hole.

With momentum clearly shifted in Colorado's favor, the Sharks stepped up the pressure on Budaj late in the game. They would strike gold at 15:47 on Alyn McCauley's 11th goal of the season. The key to the play was pressure in front of the net, courtesy of Ville Nieminen and McCauley. While Patrice Brisebois and Sauer tried containing Nieminen, Kyle McLaren rifled a shot from the blue line. McLaren's shot bounced off Budaj's pads back to McCauley, who buried it.

"The most important thing is to get the win," the San Jose goalie said. "Sometimes it will be ugly. And tonight it was."

Notes:

The Sharks signed defenseman Matt Carle to an entry level NHL contract. Carle, recently completed his junior season with Denver University where he was named WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All WCHA. He is also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented to college hockey's top player. Carle will join the Sharks on their five game roadtrip which starts on Tuesday in St Louis.


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
COL 1 3 1 5
SJ 3 2 1 6
1st period - 1, San Jose, Preissing 10 (Goc), 6:02. 2, Colorado, Turgeon 12, 8:18. 3, San Jose, Hannan 4, San Jose, Cheechoo 42 (J. Thornton, Ekman), 14:09.
2nd period - 5, San Jose, Marleau 30 (Michalek, Bernier), 1:44, (pp). 6, Colorado, Hejduk 21 (Blake, Brisebois), 10:50. 7, Colorado, Laperriere 17 (Sakic, Laaksonen), 12:07. 8, San Jose, Marleau 31 (Bernier, Michalek), 13:47, (pp). 9, Colorado, Laperriere 18 (Sauer, Turgeon), 16:21.
3rd period - 10, Colorado, Liles 13 (Laperriere, McLean), 10:29. 11, San Jose, McCauley 11 (McLaren, Goc), 15:47.
Penalties
1st period - Blake, COL (interference), 19:55.
2nd period - Brisebois, COL (cross-checking), 8:39; Skrastins, COL (tripping), 13:19.
3rd period - Blake, COL (delay of game), 0:51; Ekman, SJS (interference), 2:04; Laaksonen, COL (tripping
Goaltending
  Shots Saves
COL - Budaj 33 27
SJ - Nabokov 29 24
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
COL 6 14 9 29
SJ 12 10 11 33
Power Play Conversion
COL 0 of 3
SJ 2 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Patrick Marleau
Ian Laperriere
Steve Bernier
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Paul Devorski, Marc Joannette. Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Brian Mach.

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