SAN JOSE (AP) The needle finally slipped below the red line Thursday night in San Jose as the Canucks fell 5-2 to the Sharks.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Canucks simple didn't have the gas in the tank to overcome Joe Thornton, who scored a goal and an assist to pace San Jose.
Trevor Linden briefly gave the road team hope late in the game making it 3-2, but his third goal of the season proved little more than window dressing as the Sharks popped two quick ones on rookie Drew MacIntrye to finish the affair.
MacIntyre's first taste of the NHL wasn't an easy assignment as he relieved Curtis Sanford in the second period after Wednesday's hero in Anaheim gave up three goals on 12 shots.
Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves to record his league-leading 17th victory as the Sharks won for the sixth time in seven games, and got their sixth win on home ice after winning just five of their first 13 at the HP Pavilion.
"We're second in the Western Conference, and that's all that really matters," said coach Ron Wilson. "We are where we are where we are. We keep playing like this going forward, and we don't have to worry about what our record was at home in the first two months of the regular season."
Milan Michalek, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, who won consecutive home games for just the second time all season to stay in a first-place tie with Dallas in the Pacific Division, passing Vancouver for second place in the Western Conference.
"It feels good we got some wins at home, and it's going to continue like that," Michalek said. "We were talking about it before the game, (how) we had to come out hard on them because they played the night before."
Henrik Sedin had the other goal for the Canucks, who fall to 1-2 on their current four-game trip that will see them wrap up Saturday in Edmonton.
The Canucks were outplayed for most of the game and threw MacIntyre to the Sharks late in the third after climbing to within a goal of San Jose with a pair of giveways that led directly to San Jose goals.
"Our of five goals, four of them were mistakes, and you can't play like that," said Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell, who got dusted by Michalek on San Jose's first goal. "Against a team that good, you can't make more than one mistake."
Nabokov has started each of the Sharks' 30 games this season, and the veteran has rarely been better. He picked up his league-leading 17th victory and barely missed his 39th career shutout while keeping his goals-against average at 2.00, the second-best mark in the NHL behind Detroit's Chris Osgood.
Curtis Sanford allowed three goals on 12 shots while filling in again for Roberto Luongo, who has missed four of Vancouver's last five games with bruised ribs. Drew MacIntyre made his NHL debut in relief of Sanford after the Sharks went up 3-0 in the second period.
A goal and a +2 im just over 20 minutes of ice time.
A goal, an assist and a +2 in over 21 minutes of ice time. So why second star? Good question.
Just had the one assist, but big Craig was a very string +4.
Vancouver, playing without Brendan Morrison for the second straight night, lost for the third time in four games overall. The Canucks labored at times during their sixth game in nine days.
"We weren't sharp at all," Vancouver captain Markus Naslund said. "We didn't play like we had anything in it. All along, we've said we weren't going to use any excuses, about injuries or scheduling."
Michalek showed why he's one of the NHL's most highly regarded young forwards with a stunning move to open the scoring midway through the first period. He collected Thornton's pass on a power-play rush and left Mitchell flat-footed, turning the corner for his 10th goal.
Marleau then sped past another defender for another breakaway goal, just his second in 10 games.
Pavelski padded the Sharks' lead in the second period with a deceptive shot from the slot, handcuffing Sanford. San Jose also kept up its stellar defensive play, allowing just eight shots in the first 39 minutes.
Sedin ended Nabokov's shutout bid with 14:51 to play, tapping home a rebound of Lukas Krajicek's shot that bounced right to his stick. Linden got credit for his third goal of the season midway through the period when Nabokov stopped his shot, but then kicked it into the net behind him.
But Thornton kept the Sharks comfortably ahead 41 seconds later when Devin Setoguchi stole a Vancouver pass and fed the 2005-06 MVP for a breakaway slap shot with 9:07 to play. Bernier padded the lead 1 minute later when Krajicek coughed up the puck right next to the net.
Notes: Sharks D Alexei Semenov left in the second period with a hand injury. He left the Shark Tank with a heavy wrap on his right hand, particularly around his last two fingers. ... Morrison's streak of 542 consecutive games ended Wednesday night. His wrist injury will require surgery. C Ryan Kesler also missed his first game of the season with an illness. ... Bernier has three goals in two games after scoring just three in his previous 16 outings.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 SJS
Backhand shot -
2 - 0 SJS
3 - 0 SJS