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Nabokov returns to Sharks' net, leads team to 3-1 win over Flyers

PHILADELPHIA - Simon Gagne is out for the regular season. Peter Forsberg squashed his comeback attempt. Danny Briere has not played up to his hefty $52 million free-agent contract.

Throw in other assorted injuries and a confidence shortage and it's no wonder the Philadelphia Flyers are on a nine-game winless streak.

Douglas Murray and Milan Michalek scored 42 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 victory over the Flyers on Thursday night.

"This is a challenge and there is nobody outside of our locker room that is going to make a difference," Philadelphia coach John Stevens. "It's up to each guy to make a difference."

The season keeps getting worse for the Flyers, who started the month as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They lost their ninth straight game (0-8-1) and the home crowd booed a team that dropped out of the conference playoff standings.

"It's pretty much rock bottom now," Flyers captain Jason Smith said. "We better turn things around quickly now or we're not going to be in a good spot."

Jonathan Cheechoo scored his 17th goal for the Sharks, who ended a five-game losing streak. Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves for San Jose.

"It's not that we've been playing poorly. We just haven't been able to score," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Fortunately, we kept our composure and our poise and got the job done in the third period."

Mike Knuble scored his 22nd goal for the slumping Flyers, who said before the game that Gagne will miss the rest of the season because of a concussion.

Forget chasing the No. 1 seed in the East or securing home-ice advantage in the playoffs. The Flyers simply need a spark to get back into the win column and resume a playoff push.

"We didn't seem to show the same emotion as we should when we get behind in games," Flyers centre Mike Richards said.

The Flyers thought they found that something extra when Knuble scored with six seconds left in the second period to tie the game 1-1. So many times this season, the Flyers were the ones who suffered breakdowns around the net in the waning moments of a period, a disastrous habit that has irritated Stevens.

The goal was responsible for the loudest cheers of the night. The Philly faithful have had enough and the Flyers were booed almost the entire game, especially when they were outhustled to the puck.

"We're not playing with a lot of confidence right now and it's affecting our work ethic and our concentration level," Smith said.

A big screen ad for a Briere promotion brought some of the loudest boos. Briere has been a disappointment in his first season in Philadelphia and entered with a disastrous rating of minus-22, easily the worst on the Flyers.

"Danny cares. Danny really cares," Stevens said. "He's been the victim of some bad bounces of late, but I do know he cares."

Whatever lift the Flyers hoped they could carry into the third period was wiped out by two quick goals by San Jose.

Michalek's 20th goal seemed to trickle through Martin Biron's legs for a 2-1 lead 3:35 into the third. The Sharks needed only 42 seconds to score again, this time when Murray's first career goal bounced off Biron and into the net like a basketball bank shot.

"Now is the time to start building on a winning streak," Murray said.

Cheechoo's goal from the high slot late in the first gave San Jose a 1-0 lead.

Notes: The Flyers honoured Sharks C Jeremy Roenick for his 500th career goal. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren hugged Roenick, who played three seasons with the Flyers, and presented him with a Tiffany crystal. ... Gagne was told with proper rest the symptoms should not affect the remainder his career.


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