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Depleated Avalanche lull Sharks
SJ wins a close one against the West's worst
3/22/09 - By Mike Lee -

Facing the worst team in the Western Conference on Sunday afternoon, the Sharks were forced to overcome playing down to their opponent's level. Playing on back-to-back days also provided an excuse to turn in a sub-par performance, but in the end San Jose walked away with a 3-1 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche. The win also vaulted the Sharks back into the top spot in the league, who lead the Detroit Red Wings by a point with 10 games to play.

With the offense AWOL, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turned in one of his best showings of the year, stopping 31 of 32 shots en route to his 37th victory of the year. Colorado's Andrew Raycroft kept his team close by stopping 25 of 27 shots, matching Nabokov's play.

The Sharks got off to another slow start, which was magnified by a boarding major to Jonathan Cheechoo, who sent Avalanche defenseman Lawrence Nycholat awkwardly into the boards after the Sharks had just killed off high sticking minor to Patrick Marleau. Cheechoo also earned a game misconduct for the hit, which resulted in Nycholat having to be helped off the ice.

San Jose killed off the 5-minute penalty, which was contained by the Sharks penalty killers sans an Ian Laperriere shot that rang off the right post. Colorado put 8 shots on Evgeni Nabokov during the penalty and his defense blocked another 7 shots to preserve the 0-0 deadlock.

"We did a great job on the penalty kill, 7 minutes in the first period," said SHarks head coach Todd McLellan. "Because we had to kill 7 minutes in the first we didn't really get our game going for awhile. I thought it was a gutsy effort on our part."

A Marek Svatos hooking penalty on Marleau at 7:27 of the 2nd period would give the sharks their first power play of the game and they would use it to get their offense in gear. Jamie McGinn deflected an Alexei Semenov drive from the right point over Avalanche goaltender Andrew Raycroft's left shoulder right before the penalty to Svatos was about to expire.

With Cheechoo out early, the focus on offense turned to some of the younger players who have been forced into action because of the rash of injuries the Sharks have endured in the latter half of the season. One of those players included Jamie McGinn, who played on a line with Joe Thornton.

"I came in the room and saw my name beside Jumbo (Joe Thornton) and Cheechoo at start the game," said McGinn. "The jitters start going. All the eyes are on you, just to make sure you can perform. You don't want to be the guy to set those guys back and not get them the puck. It's just like any other game except everything's a little more important."

Former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan would tie the game with his 1st goal of the season less than 2 minutes later. Rushing up the ice on a 3-on-2 break, Wojtek Wolski sent a shot on goal from the right wing that deflected off a Sharks defenseman. The puck shot through the slot to Hanna who trailed on the play. Nabokov tried sliding to his right to defend the shot, but the puck slid under the right pad.

Semenov got in on the scoring again late in the period. Skating up the left wing, the big defenseman threw the puck on net as Milan Michalek was crashing in on Raycroft. Semenov's shot deflected off Michalek's skate and into the net.

"Semenov has been a great player for most of the year and two helpers today, he did a very good job for us," said McLellan.

A Ruslan Salei interference penalty at 8:30 of the 3rd period gave the Sharks a power play chance that almost ended in disaster. After killing off the 2-minutes, the Avalanche gained control of the puck just as Salei exited the penalty box. The Colorado defenseman had a breakaway chance, but Nabokov diverted the threat by stuffing Salei's shot.

San Jose dodged another bullet with 4:30 to play as a pass through the slot almost landed on Milan Hejduk's stick. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was shadowing the Avalanche winger, and chipped the puck just as Hejduk tried jamming it home.

The 3rd period didn't start good," said Michalek. "We had some chances, but we had to say something on the bench and start playing our game."

Avalanche head coach Tony Granato pulled Raycroft with a minute to play, but Devin Setoguchi scored the empty-netter with 21.3 seconds left to ice the game.

"We played a team that's number one overall for a reason," Granato said after the game. "They're a heck of a hockey team, and we went stride for stride with them most of the game. They were able to capitalize on a couple of their chances. We had our opportunities, but another reason they were ahead was because of their goaltending. Let's face it, Nabokov is an elite goalie, and he had to make the big saves for them tonight."

Game Notes:

Rob Blake confirmed that it was a chronic hip issue that forced him out of Saturday's game against Dallas. Semenov was victim of a Jeremy Roenick shaving cream pie after the game. While giving an interview to local television, Semenov was muzzled with a towel filled with shaving cream. He took it all in stride, although he did admit that the shaving cream "didn't taste very good."




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Scoring
1 2 3 T
COL 0 1 0 1
SJ 0 2 1 3
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, McGinn 3 (Semenov, Vlasic), 9:25, (pp). 2, COL , Hannan 1 (Wolski, Hejduk), 11:04. 3, SJ, Michalek 22 (Semenov, Pavelski), 19:25.
3rd period - 4, SJ, Setoguchi 27 (Michalek, Vlasic), 19:38, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Marleau, SJ (high sticking), 8:41; Cheechoo, SJ (boarding major), 13:02; Cheechoo, SJ (game misconduct), 13:02.
2nd period - Svatos , COL (hooking), 7:27; Liles , COL (roughing), 14:18; Staubitz, SJ (roughing), 14:18.
3rd period - Salei , COL (interference), 8:30.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
COL - Raycroft 27 25
COL - empty net 1 0
SJ - Nabokov 32 31
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
COL 8 7 17 32
SJ 5 13 10 28
Power Play Conversion
COL 0 of 2
SJ 1 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Alexei Semenov
Jamie McGinn
Evgeni Nabokov
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Pollock, Furlatt. Linesmen: Cameron, Rody.

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