SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks opened their six-game homestand with a literal bang when Jody Shelley landed a board-rattling, crowd-inciting hit on the enforcer’s first shift with his new club.
The Sharks might be tougher with their menacing new addition, but Joe Pavelski and Jeremy Roenick haven’t lost the skill that put San Jose among the NHL’s elite.
Pavelski tied it and Roenick scored the winner in a five-round shootout, while Evgeni Nabokov stopped four of Chicago’s five attempts to seal the Sharks’ 10th consecutive win over the Blackhawks, 3-2 Saturday.
With Pavelski’s gutsy third-round goal and Roenick’s cool winner, the Sharks got both a rare shootout victory and their third straight home win, finally boosting their record at the Shark Tank above .500 (12-11-1-3). San Jose is just 6-12 in shootouts since the league instituted them two seasons ago, and incredibly hadn’t won a shootout at home since October 2005.
The extra point in the standings pleased Pavelski, but he felt happier about the Sharks’ resilience against an opponent they couldn’t quite shake.
“We might have started out a little excited at home, which we can’t do, because the better teams will put you away,” Pavelski said. “It’s important to get it going at home, and hopefully we can keep this up while we’re staying around for a while.”
Nabokov made 19 saves and stopped Cameron Barker to end the Sharks’ fourth victory in five games. Jonathan Cheechoo and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored regulation goals, while Craig Rivet and Joe Thornton had two assists apiece for the Sharks, who haven’t lost to the Blackhawks since Oct. 7, 2005.
Shelley’s big hit enlivened the game’s first 17 seconds and led to a fight between Doug Murray and Chicago’s Adam Burish. Four days after the Sharks acquired Shelley from Columbus for a draft pick in 2009, one of the NHL’s top fighters made his mark with just nine shifts.
“That was a fun start,” Shelley said. “I was jacked up to be out there with Joe and Jeremy right off the bat. We decided to plan to get it deep, and all of a sudden we’re in a skirmish. You don’t want to wade into anything. You want to get right into it.”
Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith scored in regulation for Chicago, which had several chances to win despite getting thoroughly outshot in the second stop of a season-high seven-game road trip. Rookie Patrick Kane had the best scoring chance in overtime when he turned the corner on Vlasic, but Nabokov stopped him.
Nikolai Khabibulin’s 37 saves were largely responsible for earning the point for a shootout loss, but Kane saw bigger achievements.
“It’s not about that,” said Kane, who scored the Blackhawks’ only shootout goal. “It’s about how we played, and that’s obviously a positive look at things. It would have been nice to get two in the shootout. We just had a couple of bad breaks on the breakaways, and what can you do about that?”
The Blackhawks got a stellar performance from Khabibulin, who’s winless in 10 straight appearances since Dec. 26. Khabibulin has been in a slump for more than a month, losing playing time to backup Patrick Lalime, but coach Denis Savard has put Khabibulin in his lineup in all three games since the all-star break.
“His performance was incredible,” Savard said. “I believe in him, and he’s a battler. You don’t win a (Stanley) Cup (by) not competing and not being as good as he is.”
The Blackhawks went ahead with 70 seconds left in the first period when Sharp tipped home Barker’s shot for his 23rd goal. The Sharks tied it during a two-man advantage early in the second, with Cheechoo pounding home a pass from Thornton for his 11th goal in a season that’s been disappointing so far for the 2006 Richard Trophy winner.
Vlasic put the Sharks ahead early in the third period with his first goal of the season on another pass from Thornton. Though Vlasic has developed steadily into one of the NHL’s most promising young defencemen, he hadn’t found the net since last Feb. 28 against Nashville.
Keith tied it less than two minutes later with a long shot through traffic – but seconds before the goal, Chicago got away with an offside puck when Keith bobbled a pass at the blue line. Replays showed the puck barely sliding out of the San Jose zone.
Notes: Chicago D Brent Sopel got a 10-minute misconduct penalty moments after Cheechoo’s goal for firing the puck up the ice in frustration – and nearly hitting a referee with the shot. … Murray missed the third period with a hip injury. … Chicago won three shootouts in seven days last month. … Blackhawks rookie Jonathan Toews has been out since Jan. 1 with a knee injury, but he skated at the club’s training complex in suburban Chicago on Friday.