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Nabokov, Michalek help Sharks bury Avalanche

By Derek Nagy

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The All-Star break certainly did not cool off

Evgeni Nabokov and the San Jose Sharks.

Nabokov made 31 saves to record his third shutout of the season

and Milan Michalek netted a pair of goals as the Sharks skated

to a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Captain Patrick Marleau added an empty-netter for San Jose,

which has posted an 8-2-0 record this month, with both losses

coming against the Calgary Flames.

An All-Star Game snub despite posting a 25-5-4 record over the

unofficial halfway point of the campaign, Nabokov turned aside

nine shots in the opening period, 10 in the second and 12 in the

third to complete his 43rd career blanking.

"Let's be honest, a couple times I got lucky, but that's

hockey," Nabokov said. "Sometimes you have to be lucky to get a

shutout, and a couple times today, I was lucky. But we were

good around the net to get to all those bounces."

"As a group, we're really pleased with (Nabokov's) effort,"

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He made a number of great

saves and it allowed us to have a lot of confidence in our end.

He was tremendous."

Michalek opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 8:15 of

the first session and notched his 13th of the season with 91

seconds left in the middle period.

Andrew Raycroft stopped 35 shots for the Avalanche, who have

lost five of their last six contests and were shut out for the

fifth time this season.

"Raycroft played well, too," said Colorado's Ian Laperriere, who

was activated from injured reserve earlier in the day. "If it

wasn't for him, it could have been 4- or 5-0. We just need to

bear down. We had a couple chances with an empty net and put it

wide. It's frustrating, but what can you do?"

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff set up Michalek's first goal,

carrying the puck into the offensive zone and around the net.

He then slid a pass to Michalek, who was streaking toward the

net, and his one-timer beat Raycroft.

The 24-year-old Michalek's next tally came on an individual

effort. He took a pass from Tomas Plihal in the neutral zone,

skated over the blue line and beat Raycroft to the stick side

with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.

"It was a lost puck in the neutral zone and I was looking for

the pass the whole time," Michalek said. "But it wasn't there

and I saw an opening under his blocker, so I shot it there."

Michalek, who scored two goals in a game for the first time

since November 13, has four tallies in his last five contests.

"It's very important to get started going good again," Michalek

said. "It was great to get five days off to forget about hockey

for a few days and recharge the batteries. It was hard tonight

for everybody, but we got the win."

All-Star Marleau sealed the win with 38 seconds remaining in the

game, depositing his 26th goal of the season into a vacant net.

Despite playing well and keeping his team in the game, Raycroft

dropped his fourth consecutive decision as the Avalanche

(23-24-1) fell below .500 for the the first time since December



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