Nashville at San Jose

Sharks beat Predators to get back on track

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- More than a year after the trade that changed Jonathan Cheechoo's life, he's still grateful for every chance to receive Joe Thornton's passes.

Cheechoo scored two goals on assists from Thornton, and the San Jose Sharks got back on track with a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Thornton and Cheechoo also assisted on Curtis Brown's opening goal, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots in another strong home start as the Sharks snapped a two-game losing streak with their sixth victory in eight games.

Cheechoo, who led the NHL with 56 goals while Thornton fed pucks into his wheelhouse last season, scored late in the first period on a dynamic 2-on-1 break with Thornton. Cheechoo added his 10th of the season during a two-man advantage in the final minutes of the third.

Cheechoo, who also connected with Thornton two nights earlier to snap a monthlong goal drought, has scored in consecutive games for the first time all season -- and finally looks like the hard-swinging shot machine that became a star last year.

"It's been a while since I got a shot like that off," Cheechoo said of his first goal. "It's nice to get one of those chances again. They were both great passes. He makes those passes look easy."

Thornton, who arrived from Boston last Nov. 30, had three assists for the fifth time this season for San Jose, which took a two-goal lead in the first period and hung on to win a matchup of two top Western Conference teams who met in the first round of last season's playoffs. Nashville hasn't won in the Shark Tank in four years.

"He makes it look easy sometimes," Thornton said of Cheechoo. "If you get Cheech the puck, good things will happen."

Josef Vasicek scored his first goal since opening night for the injury-plagued Predators, who wrapped up a West Coast road trip with their fourth loss in five games. Chris Mason made 23 saves, but Nashville struggled to score while playing without several injured regulars -- including high-scoring forward Steve Sullivan, who sat out with a strained groin.

"I thought we executed a very good game plan," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They only had 15 shots with 6 minutes to go. ... We played a solid game, but not good enough to beat the Sharks in their own rink."

Both Nashville and San Jose opened the season with a significant majority of their games on the road -- 17 of 28 for San Jose and 19 of 29 for Nashville. But the Sharks began a stretch with 12 of 15 games at home on Thursday night, while the Predators play eight of their next 11 in Tennessee.

Brown put the Sharks ahead less than five minutes in when he got a pass from Cheechoo and tucked the puck under Mason as he drove the net, tumbling over Mason in the process.

Thornton connected with Cheechoo on a 2-on-1 break later in the period, with Cheechoo burying Thornton's knuckleball pass.

Wilson was admittedly stunned by Cheechoo's incredible numbers last season, but that didn't excuse his more normal point totals this fall -- or his sub-par effort in certain games.

"Cheech worked a lot harder tonight, and it showed," Wilson said. "If you compete harder in your own end, you'll be rewarded."

Vasicek snapped a 16-game goal-less drought with a quick shot past Nabokov, who hasn't lost at home since Nov. 2, with less than six minutes left in the second period. But San Jose tightened up its defense and held Nashville to six shots in the third period.

Referee Francois St. Laurent injured his knee and missed most of the third, but Paul Devorski called two quick penalties to put Nashville two men down in the final minutes. Cheechoo scored easily on another pass from Thornton, who rebounded his own shot.

"You can't take penalties in the last 5 minutes," Nashville center Scott Nichol said. "That killed us. It's been a long road trip."

Notes

  • Before the game, San Jose put LW Ville Nieminen on the injured list with a lower-body injury and activated LW Ryane Clowe and D Doug Murray. Wilson has been unhappy with Nieminen for much of the season, making him a healthy scratch in at least six games.
  • Nashville was short-handed even before Sullivan went down. C David Legwand missed his third game with a hand injury, and C Jason Arnott missed his 10th straight game following knee surgery. Both could return next week, along with Sullivan.
  • Sharks rookie C Joe Pavelski, who scored four goals in his first five NHL games, earned his first NHL assist on Cheechoo's first goal.
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Curtis Brown jumps over goalie Chris Mason after scoring San Jose's opening goal. (AP)
Curtis Brown jumps over goalie Chris Mason after scoring San Jose's opening goal. (AP)

Scoreboard
Nashville (18-8-3)0101
San Jose  (21-9-0) «2013
Three Stars
J. Cheechoo
SJ


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
C. Brown
SJ


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
E. Nabokov
SJ


Saves: 20
Save Pct.: .952
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
04:44Curtis Brown (5), Backhand Shot - Assists: Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton
16:37Jonathan Cheechoo (9), Slap Shot - Assists: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski
2ND PERIOD
14:09Josef Vasicek (2), Slap Shot - Assists: Martin Erat, Scott Hartnell
3RD PERIOD
16:29Power Play - Jonathan Cheechoo (10), Slap Shot - Assists: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
00:37Tootoo: Too Many Men on the Ice(bench) - 2 min.
14:22Pavelski: Hooking - 2 min.
19:59Bell: Too Many Men on the Ice(bench) - 2 min.
2ND PERIOD
02:26Vasicek: Hooking - 2 min.
10:26Thornton: Hooking - 2 min.
11:11Erat: Holding - 2 min.
14:32Hannan: Holding - 2 min.
3RD PERIOD
04:59Bernier: Interference with goal tender. - 2 min.
11:35Erat: Hooking - 2 min.
15:15Vasicek: Hooking - 2 min.
16:13Hartnell: Delay of Game - 2 min.
SHOTS ON GOAL
 123T
Nashville105621
San Jose851326
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Chris Mason58:48233
Evgeni Nabokov59:40201
GAME INFORMATION
Attendance - 17496
Game Time - 60:00
Referees - Paul Devorski, Francois St-Laurent
Line Judges - Brad Lazarowich, Thor Nelson
 
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