<
>

Weekes solid as Shanahan, Rangers feed on Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Way out west, the New York Rangers got
their season back on track behind a few unlikely goals and an even
more unlikely goalie.

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."

Game 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.