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Vesa Toskala makes 20 saves and assists on two as Sharks bite Blackhawks 4-2

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Vesa Toskala makes 20 saves and assists on two as Sharks bite Blackhawks 4-2

The Canadian Press
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He was more pleased with his 20 saves in San Jose's revitalizing 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Marcel Goc and Curtis Brown scored on plays initiated by Toskala, who backstopped San Jose to just its second victory in six games with the Sharks' first multipoint game by a goalie. Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek also scored for the Sharks, who still haven't fixed their once-vaunted power play but made enough hustle plays to win.

And though Toskala was one point away from tying the NHL record for points by a goalie, he wasn't about to take a shot at the Blackhawks' empty net in the final seconds.

That's already been done in teal by teammate Evgeni Nabokov - and Toskala also found the net before.

"I got my goal in Europe," he said with a laugh. "I don't have to worry about that any more. ... (assists) are just leaving the puck behind the net a couple of times. That doesn't happen very often."

After earning just one point from back-to-back home losses to Dallas earlier in the week, San Jose got back on track with what coach Ron Wilson described as a "workmanlike effort." Just in time, too: The Sharks have a home-and-home series with Anaheim starting Tuesday to kick off a season-high eight-game road trip.

"We're better when we're an aggressive, puck-pursuit team like that," Wilson said. "You have to put together a series of games before you can say you've fixed whatever problems you have, (but) I still don't know how we can go from playing great to awful so quickly."

Tuomo Ruutu had a goal and an assist, and Martin Havlat also scored for the Blackhawks, who had won two straight following a 10-game losing streak.

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 27 shots, but lost for the 11th time in 14 appearances. Nothing gets easier for the struggling Blackhawks, whose next three games are in Western Canada during a seven-game road trip stretching from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh.

"That's the best team we've played by far this year," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "I know they came off a couple of losses, but great teams respond, and they responded. They have size, speed, and they're very aggressive. It's the style of play we want to play."

San Jose still has the NHL's most efficient power play despite a 1-for-38 slump that included six fruitless attempts against Chicago. The Sharks scored 15 power-play goals in three games several weeks ago, but the unit led by MVP Joe Thornton was been unable to restore that lustre - leaving the Blackhawks with their good penalty-killing as a positive in the loss.

"They don't need to score on the power play to win games," Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook said. "They have a high-powered offence. We (killed penalties) well, but we have to cut down on mistakes and turnovers and not give them so many chances."

Toskala, who had just one point all season, picked up an assist on Goc's short-handed goal less than two minutes in. Patrick Rissmiller chased Toskala's cleared puck behind Chicago's net and fed Goc, who flipped a backhand over Khabibulin.

Ruutu evened it seven minutes later with a tricky one-timer through a minuscule hole between Toskala and the post, but Brown put the Sharks back ahead with another speedy play and another opportune backhand after Toskala and Scott Hannan cleared the puck.

Havlat's 17th goal of the season tied it in the second period, but Marleau put San Jose back ahead with a snappy rebound goal. The San Jose captain has seven goals in the eight games surrounding his all-star game appearance.

Jonathan Cheechoo ended a five-game scoreless streak with a clever pass to set up Michalek's quick breakaway goal with 8:06 to play.

Notes: Sharks enforcer Scott Parker played in just his sixth game all season. He had missed the last 12 games with an ankle injury. ... The Blackhawks traded forward Brandon Bochenski to Boston for minor-leaguer Kris Versteeg. Bochenski had two goals in 10 games with Chicago, but spent most of the season in the minors. ... Anaheim's Ilya Bryzgalov had the NHL's last multipoint game for a goalie against San Jose in February 2006. ... Third-stringer Nolan Schaefer backed up Toskala while Nabokov rests his strained groin.

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Vesa Toskala makes 20 saves and assists on two as Sharks bite Blackhawks 4-2