SAN JOSE, Calif. - Evgeni Nabokov had the best viewpoint in the building for the fisticuffs, shoving matches and spearing penalties of the San Jose Sharks' latest fracas with their unfriendly rivals from Anaheim.
Nabokov loved the point driven home by the point of Rob Blake's stick: Although the Sharks play some of the NHL's prettiest hockey, they can also get plenty rough when necessary.
Nabokov made 31 saves in his first shutout of the season, and captain Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist in the Sharks' 10th win in 11 games, 2-0 over the Ducks on Thursday night.
The Pacific Division clubs' third meeting of the season ended with a handful of scuffles and major penalties. The last, a prolonged grappling match around Nabokov's net with 20.4 seconds left, ended with Blake sent off for spearing and fellow veteran defenceman Scott Niedermayer hit with a misconduct penalty.
"We're playing each other a lot, and I guess we don't like each other too much," said Nabokov, who earned his 41st career shutout. "It's kind of a rivalry. We obviously want what they had, and that's the Stanley Cup. That's why it's such a great rivalry. Our guys care about each other, and that's great to see."
Devin Setoguchi scored his team-high 14th goal for the NHL-leading Sharks, who improved to 15-0-2 at the Tank. They also opened a gaping 13-point advantage atop the Pacific Division standings over the second-place Ducks.
After an overtime loss to Edmonton last Saturday that snapped the Sharks' nine-game winning streak, they had four days off before this showdown. San Jose used the rest to beat the Ducks at their own physical game, winning for the 17th time in 20 games with puck possession and disciplined hockey - and a few well-placed shoves.
"They compete for every inch, and I thought we competed for our ice," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It was a bit of an emotional game near the end, but it wasn't quite the kind of games we've been playing, a free-flowing one. It was a little uglier, a little more muck-and-grind along the boards, and I was happy with the way we competed in those areas."
Enforcers Jody Shelley and George Parros fought early, with Shelley landing more punches but Parros ripping his foe's jersey off the shoulder. Trouble erupted again with five minutes left when Milan Michalek knocked Corey Perry to the ice in response to an attempted open-ice check. Chris Pronger, Chris Kunitz and San Jose's Joe Pavelski all got involved, but only Michalek and Perry got penalties.
The last-minute shoving match included many of the same combatants along with Blake and Niedermayer, the recipient of the spear. Michalek, the Czech forward who has gradually learned the principles of feisty play in North America, also got a misconduct penalty.
"Perry went to the net off a shot, and (Blake) just reacted with a spear," Niedermayer said. "I was just kind of in the middle of the pile. ... Ever since I've been here - not that that's anything to do with it - the Sharks have been a good, tough team to play against, and we've tried our best. Maybe they've all not been good games, but you expect to have to be at your best to win."
The Sharks also relied on Nabokov's outstanding play, punctuated by a brilliant kick save on Perry in the final minute. Nabokov has played seven straight games for the Sharks since returning from a three-week injury absence, and the Vezina Trophy finalist hasn't lost in regulation since Oct. 24 at Florida.
"The shutout was just icing on a cake," Nabokov said. "Everybody chipped in."
Jonas Hiller stopped 25 shots for the Ducks, who lost for the third time in nine games. The Ducks were responsible for the biggest of the Sharks' five losses this season, shutting out San Jose 4-0 on Oct. 17 to end the club's unbeaten start.
"It's tough to play against the Sharks right now," Hiller said. "We know we have to put pressure on them, get a body on them. We showed we were able to play better in the third, but we need to play that way for 60 minutes."
Marleau got the Sharks' first goal on a long shot late in the first period. Anaheim managed only intermittent offensive pressure despite a shot advantage, and Setoguchi doubled San Jose's lead when he whipped home a rebound of Marleau's shot midway through the second.
Notes: The Sharks again played without RW Jonathan Cheechoo and D Brad Lukowich. Cheechoo is close to returning from his upper-body injury after practising during the Sharks' four-day layoff, while Lukowich still is hobbled by a groin injury. ... Sharks C Jeremy Roenick hurt his hand against the boards when he braced himself to absorb a hit in the second period. He returned to play in the third period, but said: "It's not too good right now," after the game. ... San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith attended the game with offensive linemen Joe Staley and Adam Snyder.