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Oilers' playoff chances dim after 2-1 loss to San Jose Sharks

EDMONTON - The San Jose Sharks continue their march to the post-season at a record-setting pace.

Dan Boyle's second-period goal stood up as the winner in the San Jose Sharks' 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. Jonathan Cheechoo also scored for the Sharks (51-15-11), who won their third in a row and 51st of the season, tying a franchise record from the 2006-07 campaign for most wins in a season.

"It was a simple road win," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "I don't know that we were at our best.

"I thought Edmonton threw everything they had us, they came very hard. We had to be very prepared."

With the win the Sharks moved six points ahead of Detroit for first place overall in the NHL.

"We do care about the points, but we care more about the way we play," said San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made 25 saves to improve his record to 40-9-8. "With a lot of guys out of the line up we have to tidy it up a little bit, we have to be disciplined and that's what we are right now. "

Sam Gagner replied for the Oilers (36-33-9), who lost their third in a row and sixth in the last seventh to see their playoff hopes further diminished. Edmonton remains in 11th place in the West and four points back of eighth-place St. Louis with four games left to play.

"It's disappointing," Gagner said. "The battle level and the intensity were there. The guys were working hard and creating a lot of chances. Obviously at this time it comes down to results though.

"We aren't out of anything yet and we have to pick ourselves up for the next game."

It didn't take long for the Sharks to taste first blood, striking just 52 seconds in when Cheechoo ducked behind Joe Thornton and used him as a screen to send his 11th of the season past Edmonton starter Dwayne Roloson.

San Jose had an opportunity to go up by two seven minutes in when Ales Hemsky coughed up the puck at his own blue-line to give Jeremy Roenick a breakaway, but Roloson was able to make the big glove save.

Edmonton almost tied the game up with seven minutes to play in the opening frame, as Ales Kotalik put a shot through Nabokov's legs, but the puck rang off the post to keep it a 1-0 game after the first 20 minutes.

San Jose added to its lead before the midway point of the second on a power play, as Boyle pinched in from the point and got a rebound in tight with nothing but net to shoot at, making it 2-0.

The Oilers clawed their way back into the contest with a power-play goal with just 1:42 to play in the second. Robert Nilsson sent a backhand pass to Gagner trailing on the rush and he beat Nabokov up high for his 15th of the year to make it 2-1.

Edmonton came out strong in the third with a number of early opportunities, including six minutes in when Kotalik put it through Nabokov's legs only to see it deflect harmlessly off the post for the second time in the game.

"We missed some great chances, myself included," Kotalik said. "I had more than one chance that I had to put away, bottom line. If I had got one of those through, the game could have ended in our favour."

The Oilers continued to apply the pressure but couldn't get the equalizer in the scoreless third.

Both teams are back at it on Saturday as the Oilers play the fourth game of a six-game homestand against Vancouver while the Sharks return home to host Aanheim.

Notes: Defenceman Rob Blake and forward Marcel Goc both returned to the San Jose lineup and they needed the relief. In their last outing against Calgary, the Sharks were missing nine players due to injury. ... Among those still on the mend for San Jose are forwards Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe. ... Robert Nilsson returned to the Oilers lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last couple games, taking the place of Jean-Francois Jacques. ... Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson made his 34th consecutive start. ... Sharks centre Joe Pavelski extended his scoring streak to seven games with his second period assist. ... San Jose is now 36-5-4 when scoring first in a game this season.



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