Rangers fall to the Sharks

December 21, 2008 5:08:47 AM PST
Early in the third period, coach Todd McLellan could tell his San Jose Sharks' recent travels had left their tanks dry. After racking up more than 5,000 air miles and losing two tough games in the last week, the overall NHL leaders were clinging to a one-goal lead on the surging New York Rangers, who always seemed to be an instant shy of tying it.

Yet Evgeni Nabokov wouldn't allow his sagging teammates to fold, making 17 of his 32 saves in the frantic third period of the Sharks' 3-2 victory Saturday night.

"We were a pretty determined team, and I say that including the last 15 or 18 minutes there when we had nothing left," McLellan said. "We found a way, and that's the sign of a good team, so I'll take that."

Dan Boyle, Ryane Clowe and captain Patrick Marleau scored early goals for the Sharks, who were back home after a 1-1-1 road trip that ended with the overall NHL leaders' worst loss of the season, a 6-0 thrashing in Detroit on Thursday.

The Atlantic Division-leading Rangers dominated the third period, getting agonizingly close to the tying goal in a half-dozen flurries while outshooting the NHL shots leaders 17-7. But Nabokov, who gave up all six goals to the Red Wings, coolly kept the Sharks unbeaten in regulation at the Tank nearly halfway through their home schedule (17-0-2).

"We were probably not as fresh as we've been, but we battled," said Nabokov, who matched Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist for the league lead with 18 victories. "That's the way it should be."

The rest of the Sharks alsMarleau padded the Sharks' lead with an alert score from the slot on a pass from Thornton in the second period after linemate Devin Setoguchi forced a turnover. Callahan kept New York close by chipping home his ninth goal a few minutes later.

The Rangers controlled play starting early in the third period, repeatedly cycling the puck in San Jose's end for incredibly lengthy stretches.

"There were a couple of times there where we had them sort of spent, and we weren't able to get it on net," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "Their goaltender played great. We waited a little too long to turn up the heat a little bit on them. Had we done that a little bit earlier, we would have had a different outcome."

Notes: Before the game, San Jose reassigned LW Lukas Kaspar to its top affiliate in Worcester (AHL). ... Sharks C Tomas Plihal went to the locker room with a lower-body injury early in the second period, but returned to action shortly afterward. ... Rangers LW Markus Naslund is scoreless in three straight games, one shy of matching his longest stretch this season.