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Rangers take three of four on West Coast with 3-1 victory over Sharks

Kevin Weekes stopped 29 shots in his second win in two nights, and the Rangers finished a successful road trip with a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. After a mediocre October, New York regained its winning edge from last season with three victories in four games on the West Coast. After beating Anaheim in overtime on Wednesday, Weekes knocked off another Pacific Division power despite San Jose's superior offensive pressure and a 30-19 shot advantage that seemed even larger.

The final margin was all that mattered - and between Matt Cullen's lucky breakaway goal and Brendan Shanahan's improbable empty-netter, Weekes made sure the Rangers stayed in front.

"These guys and the Ducks, they're not your typical West Coast teams," said Weekes, who had played just once all season behind starter Henrik Lundqvist before his consecutive victories. "We played some excellent opponents. We're on the same page now. You see everybody sacrificing to get to where we want to be."

Cullen converted a breakaway in the final second of the opening period, and Martin Straka also scored. Weekes lost his shutout bid on Kyle McLaren's goal with 2:24 to play, but Shanahan scored an empty-net goal that banked off the boards near the New York bench and somehow went all the way in with 3.6 seconds left.

The bizarre goal - coming after an exhausted Shanahan was trapped on the ice for about 75 seconds by the pressing Sharks - was the 610th of his career, tying him with Bobby Hull for 12th place on the NHL's career goal-scoring list. But the Rangers were more pleased with the effort beforehand.

"We have some team unity," coach Tom Renney said. "We have a clear singleness of purpose, it appears to me now. The resiliency, the resolve, the challenge of meeting certain expectations - it's all important."

The win was New York's first at the Shark Tank in nearly four years - though the Rangers have only visited the Bay Area twice in that time. It was the first meeting between Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr since they finished 1-2 in the NHL's Most Valuable Player voting last summer, but neither superstar did much.

Evgeni Nabokov made 16 saves but got little support as the Sharks returned from a successful five-game road trip by picking up exactly where they left off in a one-sided home loss to Minnesota nearly two weeks ago. Fans booed the Sharks' normally potent power play as it went 0-for-5, and coach Ron Wilson again said he might shake up San Jose's forward lines.

"We didn't come game-prepared," Thornton said. "We got a lot of shots, just not a lot of quality shots. We may have taken them a little lightly, having played last night. It's tough going into the locker room after playing like that."

San Jose largely dominated the first period, but the Rangers scored in the final instant when Thornton and Scott Hannan got caught in an awkward pinch and gave up Cullen's breakaway. Cullen beat Nabokov with 0.7 seconds left for his fourth goal of the year.

New York got another early in the second period, again thanks to a San Jose defensive lapse. Nabokov made a pad save on Straka's first unobstructed shot, but Straka flipped the rebound off the back of the goalie's leg and into the net for his seventh goal of the season.

Thornton and Jagr rarely interacted until late in the second period, when Thornton fumbled the puck right onto Jagr's stick deep in San Jose's zone. Nabokov fended off the Rangers star with an extended pad.

After San Jose dominated the third period, McLaren scored a fluke goal with a long, high shot from the boards that somehow eluded Weekes.

"Our power play wasn't clicking, but that's no excuse," McLaren said. "We're relying on our power play too much. We need to score 5-on-5 goals."

Notes: New York hosts Buffalo at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, then heads out for another three-game road trip. The Rangers are in the midst of a stretch with nine of 11 games on the road. ... San Jose won three of five games on its second-longest road trip of the season, but has two more four-game trips on its schedule before mid-December. ... Golden State Warriors G Baron Davis watched the game from a rinkside seat.


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