SAN JOSE, Calif. - Even the freshest rookies can sense that the Anaheim Ducks' meetings with the San Jose Sharks are more momentous than the average Tuesday night game in December.
Bobby Ryan knew it from the moment he stepped on the Shark Tank ice for his sixth NHL game, so the Anaheim youngster took particular pride in keeping the Ducks on top of this lively rivalry.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 20 saves in his first shutout of the season, and Corey Perry scored the go-ahead goal in the Ducks' 2-0 victory, just the defending Stanley Cup champions' second win in six games.
Ryan also scored in Giguere's 26th career shutout for the Ducks, who beat San Jose for the third time in four meetings this season. Scott Niedermayer picked up an assist in his second game since returning to the Ducks, leading a strong defensive game to hold the Sharks scoreless for the first time all year.
"It's one of the battles of California," said Ryan, who also scored on the Sharks two nights earlier in San Jose's shootout victory in Anaheim. "I've played most of my games against the Sharks now, and you can tell it's a rivalry. The second you walk on the ice, everybody is booing."
Two nights after Joe Thornton's shootout goal beat the Ducks in a chippy game, the clubs traded punches and hard checks again. The clubs' previous three meetings all went to shootouts, and they'll get their third matchup in seven days Saturday night in San Jose.
"Every time we play Anaheim, it seems like it's a really tight game," Sharks rookie Torrey Mitchell said. "One goal, one hit or one bounce can win the game for you."
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 14 shots for the Sharks, who have lost two of three straight key division games to fall out of first place. San Jose lost for only the third time in 10 games, but the Sharks' lifeless effort in the final two periods concerned coach Ron Wilson.
"You shouldn't play the way we did in a big game like this," Wilson said. "We had an opportunity to put some distance between ourselves and Anaheim, and we didn't do it. ... It's inexplicable to me not to have the extra passion tonight."
Mike Grier, the Sharks' top defensive forward, twice came agonizingly close to scoring midway through the first period - the first time on a breakaway, and the second time when his rebound shot skittered along the goal line before two Ducks saved it behind Giguere.
Perry scored early in the second period when San Jose defenceman Doug Murray lost track of him, allowing Chris Kunitz to hit him with a perfect cross-ice pass.
Ryan, who got his second NHL goal against Nabokov two nights earlier, scored on a power-play rush late in the second period, converting Todd Marchant's pass. Ryan played in Anaheim's first four games this season before a 2 1/two-month stint in the minors that ended last weekend.
"I'm 2-for-2 against the Sharks," Ryan said. "It's nice to hop right on the horse and get one right off the bat. My goal should be overshadowed by Giggy's effort, though. He was outstanding."
Giguere doesn't have spectacular statistics, but the veteran goalie was in all the right places against the Sharks. After beating San Jose just nine times in his first 23 meetings, he has three wins over the Sharks already this season.
"It's always a tight game when we play each other," Giguere said. "These guys are one of the top teams in the division. We know they have a good team, and we have a lot of respect for them."
They also have enmity, particularly after San Jose's Kyle McLaren crushed Francois Beauchemin with a second-period check. Anaheim enforcer George Parros won a fight with Rob Davison moments later, and the two spent part of their time in the penalty box yelling at each other through the gaps in the glass.
San Jose's Craig Rivet evened the score early in the third by pounding Ryan Carter, a rookie in his first NHL fight.
Notes: Sharks D Matt Carle was a healthy scratch for the fourth time in five games. Wilson has been unhappy with the former Hobey Baker Award winner's inconsistent play. ... Anaheim D Kent Huskins returned to the lineup after missing six games with a bruised knee. Shane Hnidy was scratched. ... San Jose, which has the NHL's best road record, fell to 6-8-2 at home.