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Sharks' Toskala records ninth consecutive regular-season win

Oct 10, 2006 - 2:56 AM CALGARY, Alberta (Ticker) -- Although a shutout was ultimately unattainable, Vesa Toskala knew how to keep a good thing going for the San Jose Sharks.

Toskala stopped 29 shots for his ninth straight regular-season victory and captain Patrick Marleau collected three assists as the Sharks opened a three-game road trip with a 4-1 triumph over the Calgary Flames.

The 29-year-old Toskala extended his franchise record for consecutive wins in leading San Jose to its first 3-0 start since 1999-2000. The Sharks also became the first team in the Western Conference to win its initial three contests.

"It's good to have a good start," Toskala said. "That's what we were really looking for (this) season. I think for the last two or three seasons, we didn't have a really good start. It looks pretty good now. We still have a tough road trip but the team looks pretty good."

After making nine saves in the first period and eight in the second, Toskala stopped Calgary's first 13 shots in the third and was headed for his fifth career shutout before Alex Tanguay scored on a power play with three minutes left.

"Unbelievable," Sharks center Mark Smith said of the goaltending duo of Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov. "Both goalies, no matter what one is in net, we're confident with them back there. We have the best tandem in the league, by far. No matter who is out there, they're going to be playing the best."

San Jose opened the scoring with just 15 seconds remaining in the opening period while Calgary's Marcus Nilson was serving a hooking penalty.

Reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner Joe Thornton found defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who beat goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff for his second tally of the season.

"I just joined the rush," Ehrhoff said. "Marleau got the puck on the blue line and made a nice pass to Thornton. Joe beat the guy 1-on-1 and put it in there for me. I just had to make a move on Kipper."

Steve Bernier widened the margin to 2-0 at 1:21 of the second session when he picked up a loose puck in the right corner, skated along the goal line and stuffed it between Kiprusoff's pads.

With 37 seconds remaining in the second, Kiprusoff made a pad save on Marleau's breakaway but was slow getting back in front of the net. San Jose worked the puck back to the slot, where Milan Michalek fired it inside the right post for his third tally of the campaign.

A first-round pick in 2003, the 21-year-old Michalek leads the team in goals after topping the league with seven preseason tallies. The Czech scored twice on a career-best seven shots Thursday against the St. Louis Blues.

Mark Smith netted his first goal of the season with 11 minutes remaining on a power play when he defected blue-liner Scott Hannan's shot from the left faceoff circle between Kiprusoff's pads.

"We were trying to wear them down a little bit and prove a point to ourselves," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Past games here and in Edmonton, we've been the team that's been pushed around, physically hammered to the end of the game, where we're making the turnovers and giveaways. We're physical (now). We're big."

Kiprusoff made 22 saves for the Flames, who are just 1-for-25 on the power play and have dropped two of their first three contests.

"We're trying to get our team game established and that's to play hard and compete hard," Flames coach Jim Playfair said. "That's what you do when you're trying to establish your special teams game. Your power play isn't working when you're moving around and trying to be fancy. Simplify it and get guys going to the net and paying the price."

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