SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Pavelski’s return from a broken foot provided a jolt to the San Jose Sharks and helped deliver a convincing victory over the Stanley Cup champions.
Pavelski had a goal and an assist in his first game back from the injured list, Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves in his 49th career shutout and the Sharks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for the seventh straight time at home, 5-0 Saturday night.
“He really didn’t miss a step. It looked like he missed no time at all,” teammate Dany Heatley said. “He should have had two goals, I stole the other one from him. He played real well tonight and we’re happy to have him back.”
Pavelski missed the previous five weeks after breaking his foot while blocking a shot against Anaheim on Oct. 3. He scored San Jose’s second goal and assisted on the fourth.
“There’s a smile on everyone’s face when he is back in the lineup,” coach Todd McLellen said. “He means so much to our team, a very intelligent player. He brings a calmness to the ice.”
The Sharks played back-to-back games against the Stanley Cup finalists, losing a shootout in Detroit on Thursday before dominating champion Pittsburgh. San Jose led 4-0 less than 4 minutes into the second period, outshooting a Pittsburgh team missing star centre Evgeni Malkin and defenceman Sergei Gonchar 17-3 at one point.
Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby was held pointless for a fourth straight game for the fourth time in his career. He hit the post with a shot early in the second but was unable to convert against Nabokov and the Sharks.
“We just weren’t ready to play the type of game that they came ready to play,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Heatley, Dan Boyle, Jamie McGinn and Manny Malhotra also scored for San Jose, which has eight wins and a tie at home against Pittsburgh since last losing to the Penguins at the Shark Tank 5-2 on Oct. 22, 1997, when Crosby was only 10 years old.
The Penguins had tied a team record with seven straight road wins before losing 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. They followed that up with the loss in San Jose, marking the first time in 42 regular-season games under Bylsma that Pittsburgh has gone consecutive games without a point.
“We were lacklustre at points,” forward Matt Cooke said. “Everybody goes out on the ice with the intention of winning a hockey game. Sure, we have injuries and it’s there as an excuse if you want to take it. But if we want to win hockey games we have to face adversity and find a way to win 1-0 if we have to. You have to adjust, work harder and work smarter.”
San Jose knocked Marc-Andre Fleury out 1:41 into the second period when Boyle wove through the Penguins defence on a long rush up ice before beating Fleury with a wrist shot that made it 3-0. Fleury made 11 saves.
Brent Johnson didn’t fare much better, allowing a quick goal to Heatley. Joe Thornton made a perfect feed to Pavelski, who was coming out of the penalty box. Johnson stopped Pavelski’s shot but Heatley tipped the rebound in for the 4-0 lead and the rout was on.
Sharks enforcer Jody Shelley got into a pair of fights in the third period, getting the best of Jay McKee and Eric Godard. The first led to a power-play goal by Malhotra.
The Sharks dominated play in the opening period, outshooting the Penguins 13-3 while scoring two goals. McGinn got it started when Jed Ortmeyer forced a turnover at the blue line and sprung McGinn up ice with a blind pass. McGinn’s second-effort shot from a bad angle got past Fleury and gave San Jose a 1-0 lead.
The Sharks then came though on the power play for just the second time in six home games this season. Boyle fired a pass from the point that Pavelski redirected past a helpless Fleury for his first goal of the season.
“It had been a while, since last regular season,” Pavelski said. “I was just looking to get back into it and get a few chances.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh C Tyler Kennedy was sidelined for the fifth time in six games with an undisclosed injury. … Pittsburgh is 2-14-2 in California since the start of the 1999-2000 season. … Pittsburgh D Kris Letang left in the first period, holding his right arm awkwardly. He did not return. … Pittsburgh is 0 for 21 on the power play in its last four games. … Nabokov is 8-1 in nine career starts against the Penguins.