Nabokov made 32 saves in his second shutout in three starts this season and the Sharks handed the Stars their first loss, beating Dallas 2-0 Tuesday night. Milan Michalek and Mark Bell scored for the Sharks, who equalled their 5-1 start to the 1994-95 season while preventing Dallas from matching its club-best 6-0 start in 1996. San Jose did it with defence, slowing the Stars’ attack and getting a handful of stunning saves from Nabokov.
The Sharks’ starting goalie since 2000 has two shutouts and a six-goal loss so far in his uneasy platoon with Vesa Toskala, who has won all three of his starts. Though San Jose seems likely to trade one of the goalies this season, Nabokov won’t give up his spot in his adopted hometown without a fight – and the Sharks get the benefit of their friendly competition.
“With our goaltending the way it is, you have somewhat of a comfortable feeling,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “That affects (everything). That actually makes your offense better. Nabby played a great game. He made the kind of saves that great goalies make.”
Nabokov made his best save with 4 1/2 minutes to play, doing the splits across his crease for an unbelievable right-pad stop on Jeff Halpern, who thought he had an open net. With ample help from his defence, Nabokov added his 29th career shutout to a 2-0 win over the New York Islanders in his first start of the year.
“They’re a really good team, and we know we’re going to see a whole lot more of them this season,” Nabokov said of the Stars, who have seven more games against San Jose. “(Shutouts) are all great. None of them are better than others, unless it’s in the playoffs.”
Marty Turco stopped 21 shots for the Stars, who controlled play for long stretches against the team that finished right behind them atop the Pacific Division standings last season, but couldn’t earn one more win in the finale of an impressive four-game road trip.
Dallas’ loss left Buffalo and Minnesota as the NHL’s only unbeaten teams.
“We just had some bad luck tonight, and that happens,” center Mike Modano said. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. We skated pretty well. Anyone will take a 3-1 road trip. It’s a good start to the season. We established a base.”
San Jose opened a three-game homestand against the Western Conference’s three current first-place teams by holding Dallas without a point for just the fourth time in the division rivals’ last 20 meetings.
Michalek got the Sharks’ first goal late in the first period with a bit of luck combined with his typical puck awareness, batting a pass from rookie Matt Carle over Turco’s head and into the net. The second-year forward leads the Sharks with five goals after topping the NHL with seven pre-season goals.
“It’s early in the season, and both teams still have a lot of energy,” Carle said. “It’s fun to be a part of games like that.”
The Stars dominated the second period, peppering the San Jose net with a 14-4 shot advantage – but Nabokov remained solid, making two stunning kick saves.
Bell, back on the Sharks’ top line after missing their three-game road trip with a groin injury, scored late in the second period when Jonathan Cheechoo drew Turco and the defence before flipping a perfect pass to his linemate in front.
“That’s just poor coverage,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “You can’t give him a wide-open opportunity. Then Nabokov came up with a couple of big saves, and that’s the difference. … It seemed we were a half-step behind a lot of things. We’re ready for a day off.”
Nabokov once scored a goal against Vancouver, and he took another shot at the Stars’ open net in the closing seconds – but Sergei Zubov kicked it away at center ice.
Notes: Before the game, San Jose activated Bell from injured reserve and put LW Ryane Clowe back on IR with a foot injury. … Sharks captain Patrick Marleau’s wife, Christina, gave birth to their first child Monday, a boy named Landon. … The Sharks opened 5-1 in 1994, but went winless in their next five games. San Jose can surpass that start against Detroit on Thursday night.