Clowe scores twice, Blake has four assists as Sharks dominate Caps

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Coach Todd McLellan insisted his San Jose Sharks had a good bit of rink rust after a four-day layoff. He
thought their legs were heavy and their passes weren't crisp for
about 30 minutes.

That was news to the Washington Capitals, who couldn't spot a
weakness while getting routed by the NHL's overall leaders.

Ryane Clowe scored two goals, Rob Blake had four assists and San
Jose improved to 17-3-1 with a 7-2 victory over the road-weary
Capitals on Saturday night.

Joe Thornton and captain Patrick Marleau each had a goal and an
assist for San Jose, which improved to 11-0-1 at the Shark Tank
with yet another dominant puck-possession performance. Mike Grier
scored with 52.3 seconds to play, allowing San Jose to match its
highest goal total of the season.

McLellan knows it's important to avoid complacency when
everything is going so well for the Sharks, but he doesn't think
it'll be a problem with San Jose's veteran leadership.

"It's never the same when you have that many days off, but it's
a lesson learned," he said. "This could be [like] a playoff
series, where you have that many days between games."

Playoff talk in late November doesn't seem absurd with the
Sharks, who already lead second-place Anaheim by 10 points in the
Pacific Division. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Devin Setoguchi also
added a goal and an assist as the Sharks found their legs in plenty
of time to finish the Capitals, who haven't beaten San Jose in this

"Everybody was kind of skeptical about the days off that we
had, but once we got our legs going, we did pretty well," said
Setoguchi, who has 10 points in the past five games. "Everyone has
been chipping in since the start of the year, and it takes the
pressure off you when every line is scoring."

Brian Boucher stopped 19 shots in his seventh straight start for
the Sharks, and Dan Boyle moved into a tie for the overall league
scoring lead among defensemen with two assists, giving him 18
points. San Jose leads the NHL in shots per game by a fairly wide
margin, but needed just 28 to blow out the Capitals in a meeting of
division leaders.

"Obviously they are a well-oiled machine over there, and that's
why they're in first place," said Washington's Matt Bradley, a
former Sharks forward. "I think they are a very good team, but I
think we can play with them when everybody is healthy."

Tom Poti and Tomas Fleischmann scored in the Capitals' third
game in four nights in California during a tough five-game road
swing. Brent Johnson's goals-against average took a beating, as he
made no particularly big stops against the Sharks' three relentless
scoring lines.

Washington hadn't been to San Jose in nearly three years, but
the Capitals haven't won in the Bay Area since 1993. They've lost
11 straight overall to the Sharks.

Sergei Fedorov returned to the Capitals' lineup for just four
minutes after missing seven games with a sprained ankle, but left
wing Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green are still out with
injuries. Washington would have needed everybody to keep up with
speedy San Jose on the first anniversary of the Caps' hiring of
coach Bruce Boudreau, who has transformed an underachieving club
into one of the Eastern Conference's best.

"I thought we made three or four mistakes, and they're the kind
of team that when you make mistakes, they'll capitalize on it right
away," Boudreau said. "We've been getting away with two or three
mistakes a game and it not hurting us, but tonight it really hurt

Longtime San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov also was back in uniform
as Boucher's backup for the first time since getting hurt Nov. 6
during a shootout against St. Louis. The Sharks have been able to
be cautious with their Vezina Trophy finalist because of Boucher,
who is 7-1-1 this season with significantly better statistics than

McLellan said Nabokov will start the Sharks' next game against
Chicago on Wednesday.

Game notes
Grier returned from a two-game absence with a lower-body
injury. ... Donald Brashear won a clear decision over Jody Shelley
in a first-period fight between NHL heavyweights. ... Bradley is a
former Sharks draft pick who spent his first three NHL seasons in
San Jose.