San Jose's Nabokov blanks Coyotes for third straight time, 1-0

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes can't even score against the San Jose Sharks, let alone beat them.

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov shut out Phoenix for the third straight time as the Sharks beat the Coyotes 1-0 Friday night for their fourth victory in a row.

"Incredible goaltending from the first game of the season right up to game 26," Sharks defenceman Craig Rivet said. "What can I say? He's been the backbone for us all year. He gives us confidence."

Milan Michalek's goal with 15 seconds left in the second period was the difference in the Sharks' fifth consecutive road victory.

San Jose improved to 4-0 against Phoenix this season. The Coyotes scored the first goal of the series, then the Sharks scored the next 16. Nabokov has shut out Phoenix 5-0, 6-0 and now 1-0. The Coyotes have gone just under 231 minutes against the Sharks' goalie without scoring.

At least this one was close, with Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov nearly matching Nabokov's performance.

"A tough loss to swallow," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said, "because we played hard."

Nabokov has four shutouts this season and 38 for his career, moving him into a tie for fourth with Buffalo's Jocelyn Thibault among active goalies.

"We take pride in our defence," Bryzgalov said. "I try not to pay attention to those stats right now. We'll take it a game at a time because that's what matters."

Michalek, who scored his ninth goal of the season, slipped a wrist shot past Bryzgalov from about 10 yards in front of the net, with a slick assist from Joe Thornton. Jeremy Roenick got the second assist.

"The defenceman kind of screened me. I didn't see the shot," Bryzgalov said. "I just saw the puck when it hit me in the chest and went under my arm into the net."

Nabokov, who had 26 saves, is the only goalie in the NHL to start all of his team's games this season.

"Give him credit, he played a great game for them," Phoenix's Shane Doan said. "Our goaltender was phenomenal. You waste an effort like that from him."

Bryzgalov had 25 saves for the Coyotes. He withstood a barrage of 12 San Jose shots in the first period, many of them from close range.

His most spectacular came with just over seven minutes left in the second period, when he sprawled on the ice and barely deflected a shot by Joe Pavelski. The puck was inches from the net when Bryzgalov got the stick on it.

A skirmish followed immediately behind the San Jose net, with Pavelski and Phoenix's Daniel Carcillo sent to the penalty box. Minutes later, the Coyotes came close when Stephen Reinprecht's shot from just outside the circle bounced off the far post.

The Coyotes stepped up the pressure in the third period, outshooting San Jose 11-5, but couldn't pierce Nabokov's smothering play in goal. Phoenix pulled its goalie in a power play situation with 46 seconds left, giving the Coyotes a 6-on-4 advantage. But it still wasn't enough.

Notes: San Jose improved to 12-0-1 when leading after two periods. ... Phoenix defenceman Derek Morris left the ice with a bloody face with 9:12 left in the game, then returned after closing the wound with 10 stitches. ... The Coyotes and Sharks meet for a fifth time on Dec. 20. ... San Jose returns home to play Anaheim on Saturday, the Sharks' third game in four nights.



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