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Boucher makes strong debut in Sharks' 2-0 victory over Blues

ST. LOUIS - Brian Boucher's first start of the season might make it easier for the San Jose Sharks to give hardworking goalie Evgeni Nabokov a few more days off.

Rescued from the minors earlier in the week, Boucher made 24 saves to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0 on Saturday night for San Jose's fifth straight win.

"Whatever I can do here, I'm thrilled to be back in the NHL," Boucher said. "If I can go in there and give Nabby some rest some nights and they have the confidence to do that, then great.

"If they want to ride him, that's great, too. I'll be a support system."

Coach Ron Wilson said he'd likely lean on Boucher when the Sharks play on consecutive nights and have travel involved. This was such a case, and there are two more back-to-back situations the rest of the season.

Joe Pavelski scored on a power play and Mike Grier had a short-handed goal for the Sharks, who won the last five games of an eight-game trip after dropping the first three. Wilson also set a franchise record with his 193rd victory, passing Darryl Sutter, with a game that he said was "close to perfect" considering they've been on the road so long.

"We got some great goaltending early from Brian until we found our bearings," Wilson said. "Then I thought from the second period on we dominated the play pretty much."

Manny Legace made 32 saves for the punchless Blues, who have scored only four goals on 179 shots during an 0-5-1 slump that has them on the verge of dropping out of playoff contention. St. Louis, which entered tied for 12th in the Western Conference with 66 points, has been shut out twice during the slump and eight times overall.

"We can lose games and we can lose games where we feel like the effort wasn't strong enough," coach Andy Murray said. "We know our opponents are very good, but that wasn't satisfactory, that's for sure."

Boucher, a former first-round draft pick and member of the NHL's all-rookie team in 1999-2000, had four shutouts for the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms this season to earn another chance. He picked up his first win since March 3, 2007, at Phoenix and first shutout since Nov. 12, 2006, against the Blue Jackets.

While Nabokov had a rare night off, Boucher was tested most in the first period, stopping 11 shots.

"What I liked was how calm he was, which is a nice thing to have in a backup goalie," Wilson said. "You would think he'd be a little bit nervous, especially with what each game means to us right now.

"I'd bet you his heart rate never got over 80."

Pavelski has three goals and an assist in the last three games and got the first goal in a 3-2 victory at Detroit on Friday night. San Jose has outscored its opponents 14-6 during its winning streak.

The Blues were whistled for two penalties in a 6-second span late in the first - Keith Tkachuk for slashing and Eric Brewer for delay of game - and the Sharks capitalized 59 seconds later with Pavelski's 15th goal at 16:41. Brian Campbell faked a shot from the point before feeding it to Pavelski for a one-timer from the left circle that beat Legace.

Grier got his eighth goal in the opening minute of the third period with Patrick Marleau off for high sticking. Legace got a piece, but not enough of Grier's shot from the left point. He leads the Sharks with three short-handed goals.

Legace blamed an equipment problem for the short-handed goal, saying his blocker "broke."

"I may be making excuses, but maybe that one doesn't go in," Legace said. "Such a bad goal, especially giving it up when we're not scoring. It broke our back."

Notes: Near the end of the game, the Blues announced they had signed forward Brad Boyes to a long-term contract. The 25-year-old Boyes leads the team with a career-best 32 goals, although he has only three goals in the last 17 games. ... Nabokov has started all but three of the Sharks' 65 games and has 35 victories, tied for the NHL lead with the Devils' Martin Brodeur. Saturday's win was the Sharks' first without Nabokov resting. ... Sharks D Kyle McLaren (knee) missed his fourth game while Blues RW Dan Hinote (hip) was scratched for the third straight game. ... The Sharks are 3-0 against the Blues with one game to go.


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