SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- Coach Todd McLellan has been
calling his San Jose Sharks a fragile team for a few weeks now,
even with a record that puts them among the NHL's elite.
After a resilient week of play culminated in one last avenging
victory over the Dallas Stars, McLellan is hoping his team won't
need to be handled with quite so much care anymore.
Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi snapped lengthy goal droughts
and the Sharks earned back-to-back wins for just the second time
in nearly four weeks, beating Dallas, 5-2, on Saturday.
Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves to remain unbeaten since his return
from injury, while Pavelski scored three points and Joe Thornton
added another timely goal. The Sharks pulled within a point of
Detroit for the overall NHL lead with their fifth win in six
meetings with the Stars, who knocked them out of the postseason
McLellan realized the Sharks were all but certain to come down
from a 25-3-2 start that gave them the league's best record for
much of the season. While San Jose's place in the overall
standings hasn't changed much, the rookie head coach repeatedly
pointed out a mental fragility that could signal the Sharks are
unprepared for the rigors of playoff hockey.
In their latest meeting with a club struggling to stay in the
playoff race, the Sharks were more than strong enough. Milan
Michalek also scored and captain Patrick Marleau added an
"We're building on what's transpired over the last week," said
McLellan, whose Sharks have won four of five after a four-game
winless streak. "We slept a little bit early. The first 10
minutes, we weren't the better team, but once we got ourselves
into it and woke up a little bit, we were doing a lot of the
things that we needed to do."
San Jose avenged the Stars' 4-1 victory at the Shark Tank
earlier this month with a comprehensive effort highlighted by
two sequences of rapid-fire goals. Thornton and Setoguchi
scored 29 seconds apart in the first period before Pavelski and
Michalek got their goals 19 seconds apart in the second.
Pavelski ended a seven-game goal drought, while Setoguchi
stopped a 12-game goalless slide that got him booted from the
top line. It's no coincidence that both skids ended after the
young forwards were teamed on the Sharks' second line with
Michalek this week.
"Maybe it's cleared my mind," said Setoguchi, who spent most of
the season on Thornton's wing with Marleau. "It's strange how
your mind can get so clouded when things aren't going well.
Hopefully, I can keep it going from here."
San Jose's performance in a rare Shark Tank matinee wasn't all
positive. Defenseman Rob Blake left midway through the second
period with a lower body injury, and center Marcel Goc didn't
return after apparently injuring his leg in the third.
McLellan said both problems were "ouwees, not injuries." He
expected Goc to miss Sunday's home game against Colorado but
wouldn't rule out Blake.
While San Jose is getting itself together, Dallas is falling
apart. Brad Richards returned to the Stars' lineup after a
five-week absence with a broken wrist, but Dallas' third-leading
scorer then broke his other hand in the third period, putting
him out indefinitely.
Loui Eriksson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, who went
winless on their three-game trip.
"You just have to get back at it and find a way to get points,"
Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "The times we looked good are
the times we were pushing and rushing. The times we don't look
good are when we're chasing. ... I thought we were good early,
and then we gave up the two quick goals and chased the game the
rest of the way. We could never regain the momentum."
Marty Turco wasn't sharp while making 25 saves for Dallas, which
is running out of time to make a playoff push with just 10
regular-season games to go. The Stars are in a three-way tie
for 10th place in the Western Conference, but a 4-10-1 slump has
them in danger of missing the postseason for the first time
"We need to keep pushing," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who
scored in the third period. "That's a big two points to give up
today. We have 10 games left and we can't give up."
Goc, the Sharks' German checking specialist, needed help to get
to the locker room with about 10 minutes left, when he collapsed
in a heap behind Dallas' net. Goc, who only returned six games
ago from a lower body injury that kept him out for a month,
appeared to be favoring his left leg.