- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP) - Milan Michalek had a goal and an assist, Evgeni Nabokov made 31 saves and the San Jose Sharks reclaimed the overall NHL lead with their third home victory in four days, 3-1 over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.

Jamie McGinn also scored, Devin Setoguchi added an empty-netter, and Alexei Semenov had two assists for San Jose, which took advantage of an unusual cluster of Shark Tank appearances to get back in the race for the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy. The Sharks improved their NHL-leading home record to 30-3-4 and earned their 106th point, two off the team record and one more than Detroit in the NHL standings.

Longtime Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan scored his first goal of the season for the last-place Avalanche, who lost their fourth straight and 11th in 14 games despite several good late chances and a full game of solid play against San Jose’s injury-shuffled scoring lines. Andrew Raycroft stopped 25 shots for Colorado just three days after the club’s 8-1 loss to Edmonton _ the worst home defeat in franchise history.

Both San Jose and Detroit have 10 regular-season games remaining, but the Red Wings’ schedule could be slightly more favorable. Only four home games are left for the Sharks, who next play back-to-back games at Chicago and Nashville, with a two-game trip to Alberta still looming.

San Jose thrived without defenseman Rob Blake and center Marcel Goc, who both incurred what the Sharks said were minor lower-body injuries in Saturday’s win over Dallas. The Sharks then lost right wing Jonathan Cheechoo to a game misconduct penalty in the first period for a potentially dangerous hit on Colorado defenseman Lawrence Nycholat.

Cheechoo drove Nycholat headfirst into the boards in a corner near the Colorado net. Although Nycholat appeared to dip his shoulder right before Cheechoo arrived, possibly compounding the hit’s severity, Nycholat was down on the ice for several moments before skating to the dressing room under his own power.

San Jose killed off the ensuing 5-minute major power play with unsurprising ease against an Avalanche roster with the NHL’s second-worst road power play.

McGinn got the game’s first goal with 3 seconds left on a power play midway through the second period, deflecting Semenov’s shot from the point. McGinn hadn’t scored a goal in 23 games for the Sharks since Nov. 4 while shuttling between San Jose and the club’s AHL affiliate in Worcester.

Just 99 seconds later, Hannan got his first goal in 72 games this season on a cross-ice pass from Wojtek Wolski, leading to boos from the San Jose fans who cheered Hannan for eight years.

Hannan was a first-round pick by the Sharks in 1997, but left as a free agent for Colorado a decade later. Although he logs ample ice time for the Avalanche, he has provided almost no offensive spark in his two seasons while also racking up the first two negative plus-minus ratings of his career.

Michalek put the Sharks back ahead in the final minute of the second period on a give-and-go with Semenov, the 6-foot-6 Russian defenseman who’s been a periodic healthy scratch lately. Semenov had just the second multipoint game of his career, while fellow defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic also contributed two assists.

While the Sharks still are missing a half-dozen regulars due to injuries, the Avalanche played without forwards Paul Stastny, Darcy Tucker and Chris Stewart, along with veteran defensemen Adam Foote and Daniel Tjarnqvist.

Colorado also played the third period without right wing Marek Svatos, giving no immediate word on whether the 33-point scorer was injured.

Ruslan Salei returned to Colorado’s lineup after a two-game absence with a foot injury, but Nabokov stopped him on a breakaway when he stepped out of the penalty box with about nine minutes to play.

Notes:@ Colorado will be back at the Tank on April 7. … Canadian rocker Neil Young, a Bay Area resident, attended the game. … Officials reviewed Michalek’s goal to see whether he kicked it in, but didn’t see a clear kicking motion.

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