Sharks' Nabokov records first shutout of season

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Evgeni Nabokov and coach Ron Wilson both
insisted the victory was nothing special. Nabokov's inspired play
and the broad smile on Wilson's face suggested otherwise.

Nabokov stopped 34 shots for his first shutout of the season,
and Wilson's new team beat his old one for the seventh straight
time in the San Jose Sharks' 2-0 victory over the Washington
Capitals on Saturday night.

Wilson, fired by the Capitals last May after five mostly
successful seasons, watched as Nabokov and the revived Sharks won
for the third time in four games since Wilson replaced Darryl

Wilson holds no grudge toward the Capitals, but the Sharks
played as though they do. San Jose roared to two quick goals with a
relentless attack, then shut down Washington's stars with a
tight-checking defensive performance.

"Obviously, I'm happy, but I'm mostly happy because of the way
we played, not because we were playing Washington,'' Wilson said.
"We probably played our best game in my time here. That's what's
special about it.''

The Capitals lost for the third time on a five-game road trip
that ends Monday against Colorado. Wilson wasn't bothered by the
matchup, but his former players sure noticed.

"It was a bit unsettling,'' goalie Sebastien Charpentier said.
"He was my first coach (in the NHL), so I was a little tense. I
glanced over there and shot him a look during warmups just to let
him know I was going to do my best out there. I wanted to show him
I could give a little more effort.''

Marco Sturm and Adam Graves scored as the Sharks got back within
one victory of .500, but Nabokov led San Jose to the victory with
another outstanding performance in his workaholic season. He has
missed just one start in the Sharks' last 22 games, including 14
straight starts.

Nabokov got his 15th career shutout with 16 saves in the third
period, but it wasn't easy -- particularly in the final two minutes,
when Washington played with a 6-on-4 skating advantage after
pulling Charpentier during a power play.

Nabokov made a brilliant sliding save on a shot by Jaromir Jagr
with 1:40 left, and he scrambled across the crease on his hands and
knees to glove a chance by Mike Grier with 44 seconds left.

"Definitely, Ron has his hand in the way we've been playing,''
Nabokov said. "If we want to make the playoffs, we have to play
tight defensively, and we did it. It's a team shutout. The guys
blocked a lot of shots that I never had to see.''

Nabokov, who scored a goal last season, even tried to shoot the
puck in the final seconds, but it was gloved down.

"I've got to go to the gym and work on my wrists,'' Nabokov

Charpentier allowed two first-period goals while losing for the
third time in four straight starts since Olaf Kolzig strained his
groin and was placed on the injured list last week. The last two
losses were hardly Charpentier's fault: Washington also got shut
out by Anaheim last Wednesday.

"We put pressure on their goalie all night,'' Grier said.
"Their goalie did a great job. I'm glad we won't see him again
this season. The first part of the game decided it for us. We had
to keep penalty killing, and just never got untracked.''

The Sharks took the lead less than nine minutes in with
excellent puck movement on the power play. Brad Stuart's slap shot
was redirected past Charpentier by Sturm for his 10th goal of the

San Jose added another goal six minutes later when Graves
redirected Mike Rathje's shot for his second goal in two games.
Graves had just two goals in the Sharks' first 27 games this

The victory was tempered by the loss of left wing Scott
Thornton, who didn't return after Brendan Witt checked him cleanly
behind Nabokov's net in the second period. The team claimed
Thornton only felt "tightness'' in his back.

After struggling through the first two months of the season with
terrible play that caused Sutter's firing, the Sharks are getting
back into form -- and they're less than two weeks away from a hugely
favorable turn in their schedule.

The Sharks will be on a five-game East Coast road trip for the
next nine days. When they return, they'll begin a stretch of 45
straight days in which they'll play 15 home games and leave
California just once -- for a trip to Phoenix.

Game notes
For the first time in 11 games, San Jose didn't allow a
power-play goal. The Sharks' penalty-killers entered the night
ranked 28th in the NHL. ... Sharks D Jim Fahey, who made his NHL
debut on Thursday night, fought Washington's Brian Sutherby in the
second period. ... Capitals general manager George McPhee cursed
loudly and threw things in the Sharks' press box throughout the
game. Three years ago, McPhee was suspended for a month after he
punched Chicago coach Lorne Molleken -- who was fired last week as a
Sharks assistant.