Sports

Sharks set record in final home win

SAN JOSE -- With several Sharks shooting a T-shirt gun into the stands and others tossing jerseys to the sellout crowd Tuesday night, it was tough to remember back when San Jose was the Los Angeles Kings' favorite place to play.

The Sharks are no longer pushovers on their own pond, and that's one big reason they're headed to the playoffs after the best regular season in franchise history.

Evgeni Nabokov made 16 saves in his NHL-leading 46th victory, and the Sharks gave their fans something to appreciate on Fan Appreciation night, closing out their home schedule with a 5-2 win -- their 18th in 20 amazing games.

Milan Michalek scored the go-ahead goal in the second period for the Pacific Division champions, who haven't lost in regulation since March 20. Mike Grier, captain Patrick Marleau, Curtis Brown and Brian Campbell also scored as the Sharks (49-21-10) earned their 108th point, surpassing last season's club record of 107 with two games to play.

From their record-challenging goalie to their dangerously balanced scoring attack, the Sharks look nothing like the talented but tentative club that lost three home games to the lowly Kings back in November.

After hovering around .500 at the Shark Tank for much of the season, they've won eight of nine home games, earning a point every time out since mid-February.

"We obviously started the season real slow at home, but we've been on fire here at the end of the year," said Joe Thornton, who had his NHL-best 66th assist. "Our fans are going to be a big part of our postseason success. We love playing here."

San Jose also moved within three points of Detroit for the NHL's best record, though the Red Wings need just one point in their final three games to clinch the Presidents' Trophy.

"It's a hard game when you've been playing in games that have a lot of meaning, when the intensity is going to naturally be there," coach Ron Wilson said. "I had to remind them that there's still some things on the line."

Nabokov guaranteed he'll lead the league in victories this season, moving four wins ahead of New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. He has a chance to match Brodeur's NHL record of 48 victories last season, but Wilson said backup Brian Boucher will start Thursday in Los Angeles, with Nabokov closing out the season at Dallas on Sunday.

CAPITALS 4, HURRICANES 1, at Washington -- The chants of "M-V-P!" subsided for a moment, so Alex Ovechkin waved a glove to implore the red-clad fans for more. Ovechkin scored his league-leading 63rd goal in Washington's victory over Carolina, a result that left the teams tied atop the Southeast Division at 90 points with two games to go in the regular season.

SABRES 4, MAPLE LEAFS 3 (SO), at Toronto -- Maxim Afinogenov scored the winning goal in the shootout, guiding Buffalo past Toronto and preserving the Sabres' slim playoff hopes. Buffalo, the defending Presidents' Trophy winner, is looking to avoid becoming the third team in the NHL expansion era in 1967-68 to miss the playoffs after topping the league regular-season standings the previous season.

FLAMES 3, OILERS 2, at Edmonton, Alberta -- Owen Nolan scored the winning goal with 3:44 left in regulation, helping Calgary eliminate Edmonton from the Western Conference playoff race. The Flames need just a point in their last two games, or a loss by Nashville or Vancouver, to make the playoffs.

CANADIENS 3, SENATORS 0, at Ottawa -- Carey Price made 32 saves for his third shutout to help Montreal beat Ottawa and claim its first division title in 16 years.

DEVILS 2, ISLANDERS 1 (OT), at Uniondale, N.Y. -- Zach Parise deflected in Johnny Oduya's shot 29 seconds into overtime for New Jersey, who clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth for the 11th consecutive season with a victory over New York.

AVALANCHE 4, CANUCKS 2, at Vancouver, British Columbia -- Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski scored 35 seconds apart in the second period to help Colorado Avalanche rally past Vancouver and clinch a playoff spot.

PANTHERS 3, THRASHERS 2, at Atlanta -- Jay Bouwmeester and David Booth scored 17 seconds apart early in the third period, and Florida beat Atlanta to snap a three-game skid.

PREDATORS 4, BLUES 3 (OT), at St. Louis -- Rich Peverley scored 1:43 into overtime to complete Nashville's comeback from a three-goal deficit in a win over St. Louis.

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