DALLAS – After a loss to struggling St. Louis, the San Jose Sharks needed Evgeni Nabokov to be at his best to beat the surging Dallas Stars.
The veteran goalie gave the NHL-leading Sharks exactly what they needed. Nabokov stopped 28 shots to win his 20th game of the season, Ryane Clowe had a goal and an assist and the Sharks beat the Stars 3-1 Monday night.
St. Louis, which is last in the Western Conference, beat San Jose in a shootout Saturday. Nabokov and the Sharks stopped three power-play chances in the third to rebound from the setback.
“He made some big saves to get us some momentum,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “And we had penalty kills in the third period where he had to make some tremendous saves. He was magnificent.”
Nabokov (20-3-3) became the second NHL goalie to post 20 wins. He fell just short of his third shutout of the season.
Matt Niskanen’s goal with 5:03 left brought the Stars, who are 4-1-1 in their last six, to 2-1. Nabokov was fooled when the puck deflected off the glove of Sharks defenceman Alexei Semenov.
“It will get even harder because we’re facing desperate teams that are hungry for points,” Nabokov said. “We have to match it every night. It’ll be harder and harder from now on.”
The Stars went on the power play when Dan Boyle was called for a penalty with 3:52 left, but couldn’t get a shot on net with the man advantage.
Jonathan Cheechoo scored at 15:10 of the first and Milan Michalek added a tally early in the third.
Clowe added an empty net goal to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead with 1:02 left.
“We played a lot better than we did in St. Louis,” Boyle said.
Marty Turco stopped 16 shots for the Stars. The Dallas goalie also stopped Patrick Marleau’s penalty shot with 3:43 left.
The Stars, who lost at home to San Jose 6-2 on Nov. 28, took many positives from the game despite falling to 0-3 against the Sharks this season.
“The last time we played them it was ugly,” Niskanen said. “We’ve come a long way since then.”
San Jose has won six of its last seven at Dallas in the regular season. The Sharks, two points ahead of Boston in the race for the league’s best record, have lost only four games in regulation.
“We’re looking for playoff positioning,” Cheechoo said. “We’re not just going to be satisfied to make the playoffs. We want to secure home ice advantage.”
Cheechoo’s sixth goal of the season gave San Jose a 1-0 lead at 15:10 of the first. Cheechoo deflected Boyle’s hard shot past Turco.
The Sharks extended their lead when Michalek, who slipped while taking a pass in the slot, scored from his knees at 3:55 of the third.
The Stars had a scoring opportunity when they had a two-man advantage for 56 seconds early in the second after penalties on Brad Lukowich and Marc-Edouard Vlasic – the last coming at 6:40.
But Nabokov and the Sharks fended off the Stars in that 5-on-3 chance. Nabokov made a kick save on Mike Modano’s shot from the right circle seconds into the power play.
Dallas, who had scored 24 goals in its past five games, was 0-for-6 on the power play.
“We controlled play and had some good chances,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “If we play like that, we’ll get our fair share of opportunities and win our fair share of games.”
Notes: Claude Lemieux signed a contract with the Sharks on Monday after spending the past month with their top minor league affiliate. The four-time Stanley Cup winner’s new contract is a two-way deal, allowing him to play in San Jose or Worcester, San Jose’s top minor league affiliate. … Sharks RW Devin Setoguchi missed the game to be with his family following the death of his grandmother. Setoguchi, the team’s third-leading scorer, is expected to rejoin the team in time for San Jose’s game Wednesday against Minnesota. … Dallas LW Fabian Brunnstrom was scratched because of a lower body injury.