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Nabokov makes 38 saves for shutout

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Rathje contributed to the San Jose
Sharks' biggest blowout win of the season without even putting on
his skates.

Mike Ricci had a goal and two assists, and Evgeni Nabokov
stopped 38 shots for his third shutout of the season as the Sharks
beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0 on Thursday night.

Before the game, San Jose signed holdout Rathje to a four-year,
$8.25 million contract. Rathje arrived in San Jose before the game,
and he likely will return to the lineup within one week.

But the mere idea that their complete lineup will soon be
together provided a lift for the Sharks, who won for just the third
time in 10 games. Their yearly attempt to join the Western
Conference's elite got an immediate boost from a defenseman who
didn't score a goal last season.

"It's something that's been hanging over our heads all year,"
said Scott Thornton, who scored the Sharks' first goal.
"Generally, after a loss, we'd think about how a guy like that
could have helped. It's great to know he'll be in here really
soon."

The Sharks blasted out of their slump with a wave of offense
against Pittsburgh goalie Johan Hedberg, a former Sharks farmhand
who was traded to the Penguins last spring.

Teemu Selanne, Adam Graves and Vincent Damphousse also scored in
the first two periods, while Niklas Sundstrom added two assists for
the Pacific Division leaders.

"This is nothing to worry about. You just move on," Hedberg
said. "They have a good home record (7-1-1-2), and they're
starting to play well. You can't let a game like this go to your
head. You just have to keep playing hard."

Though he wasn't tested much in the first two periods, Nabokov
earned his shutout with several outstanding saves on 16 Pittsburgh
shots in the third, including a brilliant poke-check on Aleksey
Morozov's partial breakaway with 7:49 left.

Nabokov tied Steve Shields' franchise record with his 10th
career shutout after just 98 games with San Jose.

"It's a nice (record) to have, but my goal is to go out and
work hard and win every game," Nabokov said. "I don't mind the
third period. I wasn't too busy for a while, so it was good to
work."

The Penguins opened a four-game road trip without Mario Lemieux,
whose sore hip kept him from entertaining the sellout crowd in San
Jose. Instead, the Penguins were shut out on the road for the fifth
time this season.

Lemieux's offensive skills weren't missed while Pittsburgh
scored nine goals in its previous two games, but the Penguins
couldn't mount an attack against Nabokov until they were far
behind.

"It was a scrimmage out there at the end of the game,"
Pittsburgh's Stephane Richer said. "We don't have the team to play
open hockey and outskate other teams. Besides, we don't have
Mario."

Thornton got the scoring started midway through the first with
his eighth goal. Selanne, whose slow start might be behind him,
scored in his third straight game on a power play late in the first
period.

It was the Finnish star's sixth goal in seven games, but just
his ninth on the season.

Graves got just his second goal in 25 somewhat-disappointing
games with the Sharks late in the first. He sent a pass from the
boards to the center of the ice, where it deflected hard off Darius
Kasparaitis' skate and flew past Hedberg before the goalie saw it.

"He was in position most of the night, but you just have night
like this one," Pittsburgh coach Rick Kehoe said. "Everyone
does."

Damphousse got his team-leading 11th goal on the power play in
the second, and Ricci capped the rally with a wrist shot that
cleanly beat Hedberg 10 seconds later. Hedberg made 16 saves before
Kehoe pulled him in favor of Jean-Sebastian Aubin to start the
third.

Game notes
Patrick Marleau, a healthy scratch in San Jose's previous
two games, centered the checking line. He got one shot in 13
shifts. ... Sundstrom was held out of the third period with a
twisted knee. He's expected to play on Friday night in Anaheim. ...
Aubin faced just three shots in the third period. It was just his
second appearance in the Penguins' last seven games.