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Oilers lose seventh in a row, Nabokov perfect again in Sharks 3-0 victory

The Canadian Press
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The Edmonton Oilers bench, including head coach Craig MacTavish, top right, and assistant Craig Simpson, looks on in the closing minutes of a 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the third period. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Author: The Hockey News

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Oilers lose seventh in a row, Nabokov perfect again in Sharks 3-0 victory

The Canadian Press
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Steve Bernier scored an early goal, and Kyle McLaren added another with 3:52 left in the Sharks' first home victory in five games. Matt Carle added an empty-netter for San Jose, which had lost seven of its last eight at the Shark Tank during a key stretch of the playoff race.

But Nabokov stonewalled Edmonton for his seventh shutout of the season. The Sharks' longtime starter was put into a platoon with Vesa Toskala this season, but has played his best hockey in years during a stretch of 12 straight starts while Toskala has been slowed by a strained groin.

Dwayne Roloson made 28 saves for the Oilers, but couldn't prevent the defending Western Conference champions' seventh straight loss. Edmonton has scored just five goals and been shut out three times during the stretch.

Largely thanks to Nabokov's strong play, the struggling Sharks have kept pace in the conference playoff race with Dallas and Minnesota, who both won Sunday. All three clubs have 85 points apiece in a tie for fifth place with four weeks left in the regular season.

Nabokov had a shutout streak stretching more than eight periods before Vancouver scored in the third period of a 2-1 overtime victory Friday night. San Jose's goalies traded starts through the first four months of the season, but Nabokov didn't find his stride until Toskala went down with his nagging injury.

San Jose easily has the worst home record among the eight Western Conference clubs currently in playoff position, and most of its forwards are struggling through slumps - but the high-flying Sharks have turned defensive to get wins.

They had little trouble defensively against the floundering Oilers, who are without injured regulars Petr Nedved, Ales Hemsky, Marty Reasoner, Steve Staios and Jan Hejda.

Bernier alertly swatted home a blocked shot for just his second goal since Dec. 26. Bernier was the Sharks' fourth-leading scorer before being sent to the minors and battling injuries.

The goal came on one of the few cohesive plays by the Sharks, who struggled for consistent passing and chemistry. Edmonton also blocked an astounding 18 shots in the first two periods, including five by top defenceman Jason Smith.

Bill Guerin remained scoreless in six games since the Sharks acquired him in a deadline trade from St. Louis for Ville Nieminen, a first-round pick and a top prospect. The veteran forward has generated few scoring chances despite playing on a line with captain Patrick Marleau and playmaking rookie Joe Pavelski.

Notes: Before the game, the Sharks reassigned G Dimitri Patzold to their AHL affiliate in Worcester to make room for Toskala. ... Officials waved off an apparent San Jose goal moments before Bernier's score, ruling Jonathan Cheechoo had kicked the puck into the net. ... The Oilers will finish their three-game California road trip Monday night in Los Angeles.

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Oilers lose seventh in a row, Nabokov perfect again in Sharks 3-0 victory