Sharks beat Ducks for fifth straight time
SAN JOSE – Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Rob Blake scored rare goals in the second period for San Jose and the Sharks beat playoff nemesis Anaheim for the fifth straight time this season with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.
Patrick Marleau assisted on the first two goals and added an empty-netter for his NHL-leading 35th of the season. The Sharks have won four straight and 15 of 18 games to remain two points ahead of Chicago for the most in the NHL.
San Jose has won all five meetings against Anaheim this season after having its brilliant 2008-09 season ruined by the Ducks in the playoffs. The Sharks won their first Presidents’ Trophy in team history after winning 53 regular-season games and earning a franchise-record 117 points last season. But they were knocked out in six games by the eighth-seeded Ducks in their latest postseason disappointment.
Evgeni Nabokov was outplayed by Jonas Hiller in that series and then challenged by the organization to step up his game this season. He has done that of late, allowing just six goals in his past six games and winning all five games against Anaheim.
Matt Beleskey scored early in the third period for the Ducks, who opened their season-high, six-game road trip with a loss.
Anaheim, which had won seven of eight, had a chance to tie the game late after Joe Thornton was called for tripping in the offensive zone with 3:10 remaining. But the Sharks were able to kill off the power play, including the final 35 seconds after Hiller had been pulled for an extra skater.
Vlasic scored his first goal since Nov. 1 on the power play early in the second period to open the scoring. Blake then capped off a scintillating end-to-end play with his fourth goal of the season late in the second. Blake got the Sharks started out of their own zone with a pass to Marleau.
Thornton did a good job of staying onside while corralling Marleau’s cross-ice pass, then threaded a perfect centering pass to a hard-charging Blake, who tipped the puck past Hiller for his second goal of the week.
The teams were scoreless after a physical first period in which there were two fights and four other penalties. Thornton got called for interference just 10 seconds into the game and the penalties kept coming. San Jose’s Ryane Clowe squared off with George Parros in the first fight and Brad Staubitz went after Anaheim’s Nick Boynton in the second.
The period ended with San Jose on the power play after Troy Bodie got called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty with 1:08 left in the first. The Sharks converted when Vlasic took the puck off a faceoff win by Marleau and flipped it over Hiller’s left shoulder for his third goal of the season.
NOTES: Sharks D Dan Boyle could miss the next two games because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. Jason Demers was called up from the minors to take Boyle’s place in the lineup. … Blake tied Sharks GM Doug Wilson for 10th place in career goals by a defenseman with 237. … Hiller is 1-8 in the regular season against the Sharks, but had two shutouts in winning the playoff series against San Jose last season. … Sharks trainer Ray Tufts missed the game because of the birth of his first child, Henry.