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Sharks blank Devils for first time in franchise history

Nov 26, 2006 - 6:08 AM
SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks are considered to be a paradigm for the "New NHL." But even they can swim against the current from time to time.

Thornton snapped a scoreless tie midway through the third period and Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves for his third shutout of the season as the Sharks posted a suffocating 2-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Mike Grier scored a late empty-net goal to seal the fourth win in five games for San Jose, which persevered after a splendid goaltending duel between Nabokov and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur to blank New Jersey for the first time in franchise history.

"Obviously, they have a pretty good team," Nabokov said. "They are not going to give you many chances to score, plus Marty Brodeur is back there. If we were to open up, I don't think our chances would be very good."

Nabokov was steady throughout and spectacular at times en route to his 30th career shutout. He did receive some help from the struggling Devils, who have managed a total of three goals during their current three-game losing streak.

Among Nabokov's big saves were a pair of stops on a wild sequence with 14:30 remaining and a denial of Scott Gomez with 2:10 left. Perhaps the most impressive stop came with 12:11 to go in the second period when he denied Sergei Brylin on a 2-on-1 rush with a flashy glove save.

"I don't know if (the save on Brylin) was the hardest," Nabokov said. "They had a couple of screened shots from the blue line and sometimes shots from the blue line are more dangerous than open shots from the slot. Our guys did a (heck) of a job blocking the shots and clearing the rebounds."

Brodeur finished with 25 saves, allowing only the seventh goal of the season by Thornton - the reigning Hart Trophy winner - with 11:11 remaining.

"(Brodeur's) a great goaltender, everybody knows that," Thornton said. "But you really can't be afraid of him. You have to go out and play the same game and shoot the same way."

New Jersey's Brad Lukowich sent an outlet pass to Gomez, who could not handle the feed off his skate. Thornton picked up the lose puck, split a pair of defenders and unleashed a slap shot from the left faceoff circle that sailed past Brodeur's glove.

"(Thornton is) the best player in the league," Gomez said. "You don't want to turn it over back there, and I did. I had it on my stick and I just have to make that play."

The Sharks, who can be one of the prettiest offensive teams in the league, showed their muscle Saturday night. They held the Devils to 10 shots or fewer in all three periods and outhit New Jersey, 21-6.

"We wanted to be physical with their defense, and I don't know what the final body count was, but going into the final period it was something like 20-3," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "I knew that if we could just push the pace a little bit more in the third period, we would get a break or two."

Grier's empty-netter with eight seconds left came shorthanded, putting the exclamation point on a fine penalty-killing effort by San Jose, which killed off all three of its disadvantages.

"What do we do?" Devils coach Claude Julien asked rhetorically. "We've seen some opportunities for creating some chances, and right now we just can't seem to find the back of the net. All we can do is keep working at it and hope it turns around for us."

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