SAN JOSE -- Mike Modano glided toward Evgeni Nabokov with palpable confidence, knowing he had shattered the Shark Tank many times before. The star center on a Dallas team that loves to play in San Jose was highly unlikely to waste a breakaway chance to end this overtime game.
Instead, Nabokov barely stopped Modano's misfired first shot, and his easy rebound rested calmly on the goal line next to Nabokov's stick and the post. Thanks to Nabokov's final stunning saves, the Sharks' most feared opponent was denied -- and a few moments later, Joe Thornton wasn't.
Thornton banked a power-play goal off the Dallas defense with 2:02 left in overtime, and San Jose inched closer to a Pacific Division title with a 3-2 victory Thursday night, snapping a six-game home losing streak against the Stars and clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We've been playing real good hockey to get us in this position," said Thornton, the NHL assists leader who has seven goals in five games. "We just need to continue it. It's going to be good to have home ice for the first little bit."
Thornton also scored the tying goal early in the third period and Nabokov made 23 saves, including several stunning stops, as the Sharks earned a point in their 17th consecutive game. They're six points ahead of second-place Anaheim with a game in hand on the Ducks, who host the Sharks tonight.
San Jose needs three points from its last five games to clinch the third division title in franchise history and a top-two seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Nabokov's improbable stops on Modano's highly probable scoring chances could be seen as even more reason to believe San Jose's fates might be shifting. The Sharks have trailed behind Dallas and Anaheim for most of the season -- indeed, for most of the NHL's past three campaigns -- but their talented roster shows more tenacity with each win.
"It was a hard game for us, but a good game," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We got the job done when we needed it against a very desperate, very talented team. Let's face it, until their goalie imploded in the end, I didn't know which way the game was going."
PENGUINS 3, ISLANDERS 1, at Pittsburgh -- Jarkko Ruutu had a goal and two assists, and Pittsburgh beat New York in Sidney Crosby's first home game in more than two months. Crosby, the reigning NHL MVP, had missed the previous seven games and 28 of the past 31 with a high ankle sprain.
BRUINS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 2, at Boston -- Tim Thomas made 30 saves, Phil Kessel and Peter Schaefer each had a goal and an assist and Boston eliminated Toronto from playoff contention. It was the first time since the 1926-28 seasons the Maple Leafs have gone three years without a playoff appearance.
KINGS 4, COYOTES 0, at Los Angeles -- Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists and Erik Ersberg made 38 saves in Los Angeles' win over Phoenix. Ersberg earned his second career shutout in his 10th NHL start. He shut out Ottawa 2-0 on March 6.
RANGERS 3, DEVILS 2, at New York -- Nigel Dawes scored the tiebreaking goal while sliding on his back into Devils goalie Martin Brodeur late in the third period, and New York beat New Jersey for the seventh consecutive time this season.
CAPITALS 4, LIGHTNING 3 (OT), at Tampa, Fla. -- Tomas Fleischmann scored with 2:33 left in overtime, and Washington beat Tampa Bay to remain two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
SABRES 4, SENATORS 3 (SO), at Ottawa -- Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored in the shootout to lead Buffalo past Ottawa. The Sabres' Paul Gaustad scored with 1:26 remaining in the third to send the game to overtime.
THRASHERS 3, PANTHERS 2, at Sunrise, Fla. -- Mark Recchi scored with 6:13 left in the third period to help Atlanta snap a five-game skid by beating Florida.