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Nabokov stones Blackhawks for 2-0 win and fourth shutout of season

Nabokov made 21 saves and Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist in the Sharks' 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Jonathan Cheechoo also scored for the Sharks, who won their second game in two nights following three straight losses. San Jose handed the Blackhawks their fifth consecutive defeat (0-3-2) and third straight in regulation.

Nabokov wasn't tested by sluggish Chicago and had to make only a few tough saves.

"Our defence did a helluva job," Nabokov said. "I was able to read the game well and they were picking up the rebounds when they needed to.

"The forwards were collapsing to pick up all the dirt in there," he added. "Overall, the team was playing really well."

Both the Sharks and Blackhawks had cause to be tired. After trailing 2-0 at Washington on Wednesday night, San Jose came back to win 3-2 in a shootout. Chicago lost 4-2 at Detroit.

"Neither team had a lot of energy because we both played last night," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "We did what we had to do. We kept them on the perimeter.

"He (Nabokov) made a couple of big saves, but there wasn't anything scary, like a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2 or bang-bang play" Wilson added. "He was able to see the shots."

For San Jose, Thursday's game was the seventh in an eight-game road trip. The Sharks are 4-3-0 on the trip and also set a team record with their 20th road win of the season.

With the win, the Sharks improved to 8-2-0 in the second games of back-to-back game this season.

Chicago's Patrick Lalime started in goal for the third time in the past four games and made 21 saves.

"We got a couple of lucky goals and that's all it came down to," Thornton said. "A couple of missed shots kind of fooled Patrick."

Lalime entered the game with a 0.98 goals-against average. However the Blackhawks, who have three goalies on their roster, may be showcasing Lalime prior to Tuesday's trade deadline.

The start was only Lalime's fourth overall this season. He missed the first half of the season following surgery to repair a herniated disc.

"I thought defensively we played a very good game," Lalime said. "It's just a matter of getting your chances and putting it in."

Chicago coach Denis Savard was more upset about his team's inability to generate an attack.

"We've got to create some offence," Savard said. "It's no secret we've got to work, we've got to go to the net, work below the circles and pay the price. It's as simple as that."

One of Chicago's best scoring chances was inadvertently stopped by Blackhawks forward Martin Lapointe on an unusual play with 8:04 left in the second period.

Chicago's Lasse Kukkonen beat Nabokov high on the glove side with a screened drive from the slot. But the shot hit Lapointe, who was behind Nabokov in the crease, on the shoulder. The puck then fell to the ice and Nabokov covered up with his glove.

By that time, San Jose was already ahead 2-0.

Thornton opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 9:58 of the first period. He beat Lalime under the arm on the stick side with a shot from the left circle.

The Sharks entered the game with the NHL's best power play, converting at 23.3 per cent.

Cheechoo extended San Jose's lead to 2-0 at 4:27 of the second. After Thornton centred the puck into the slot, Cheechoo turned and fired a shot past Lalime on the glove side.

Nabokov faced eight shots in the third, but only a couple were from close range.

Notes: For the second time in three games, Blackhawks top goalie Nikolai Khabibulin didn't dress. Lalime was backed up by Brian Boucher. ...Chicago rookie D Cam Barker sat out with a bruised ankle. ... Sharks G Vesa Toskala missed his second game with the flu and a groin injury. Nabokov was backed up by rookie Nolan Schaefer for the second straight game. San Jose D Rob Davison, D Josh Gorges and LW Ville Nieminen were healthy scratches.



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