By Derek Nagy
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
DENVER (Ticker) -- The All-Star break certainly did not cool off
Evgeni Nabokov and the San Jose Sharks.
Nabokov made 31 saves to record his third shutout of the season
and Milan Michalek netted a pair of goals as the Sharks skated
to a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
Captain Patrick Marleau added an empty-netter for San Jose,
which has posted an 8-2-0 record this month, with both losses
coming against the Calgary Flames.
An All-Star Game snub despite posting a 25-5-4 record over the
unofficial halfway point of the campaign, Nabokov turned aside
nine shots in the opening period, 10 in the second and 12 in the
third to complete his 43rd career blanking.
"Let's be honest, a couple times I got lucky, but that's
hockey," Nabokov said. "Sometimes you have to be lucky to get a
shutout, and a couple times today, I was lucky. But we were
good around the net to get to all those bounces."
"As a group, we're really pleased with (Nabokov's) effort,"
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He made a number of great
saves and it allowed us to have a lot of confidence in our end.
He was tremendous."
Michalek opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 8:15 of
the first session and notched his 13th of the season with 91
seconds left in the middle period.
Andrew Raycroft stopped 35 shots for the Avalanche, who have
lost five of their last six contests and were shut out for the
fifth time this season.
"Raycroft played well, too," said Colorado's Ian Laperriere, who
was activated from injured reserve earlier in the day. "If it
wasn't for him, it could have been 4- or 5-0. We just need to
bear down. We had a couple chances with an empty net and put it
wide. It's frustrating, but what can you do?"
Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff set up Michalek's first goal,
carrying the puck into the offensive zone and around the net.
He then slid a pass to Michalek, who was streaking toward the
net, and his one-timer beat Raycroft.
The 24-year-old Michalek's next tally came on an individual
effort. He took a pass from Tomas Plihal in the neutral zone,
skated over the blue line and beat Raycroft to the stick side
with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
"It was a lost puck in the neutral zone and I was looking for
the pass the whole time," Michalek said. "But it wasn't there
and I saw an opening under his blocker, so I shot it there."
Michalek, who scored two goals in a game for the first time
since November 13, has four tallies in his last five contests.
"It's very important to get started going good again," Michalek
said. "It was great to get five days off to forget about hockey
for a few days and recharge the batteries. It was hard tonight
for everybody, but we got the win."
All-Star Marleau sealed the win with 38 seconds remaining in the
game, depositing his 26th goal of the season into a vacant net.
Despite playing well and keeping his team in the game, Raycroft
dropped his fourth consecutive decision as the Avalanche
(23-24-1) fell below .500 for the the first time since December