SUNRISE, Fla. -- Rookie goalie Alex Stalock earned his first NHL shutout Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers as a slumbering Sharks offense came to life.
Stalock made 24 saves in blanking the Panthers in his seventh NHL start to improve his record to 6-2. The San Jose offense showed up in the game's final 21 minutes with Joe Thornton scoring his first goal in 20 games, Matt Nieto his first in 28 and Joe Pavelski adding his team-leading 22nd of the season.
Florida entered the game tied for 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 43 points, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan wanted his players to focus on the Panthers' 11-5-2 record in their previous 18 games.
"They're playing well now," he said before the game. "For us to approach this any other way than our 'A' game would be a disaster. That's basically the message that was sent to the group this morning. Let's see if they can respond to it."
The Sharks again played well at the start, outshooting the Panthers 21-8 after the first period and keeping Florida's scoring chances to a minimum against Stalock.
Still, until the final minute of the second period, it was a scoreless game.
At that point, though, Pavelski got the puck deep in his own zone and sent it to Brent Burns who delivered an outlet pass to Thornton, sending him in on a breakaway with Florida defenseman Mike Weaver trailing. The Sharks captain sliced diagonally across the crease, then roofed the puck behind goalie Tim Thomas as he followed across the goal mouth.
San Jose's second goal showed just how quickly things can turn in hockey.
Stalock started the sequence with an errant clearing attempt, then made his biggest save of the night on the resulting shot by Panthers forward Scottie Upshall.
Patrick Marleau grabbed the loose puck after Upshall's shot, moved it to Tyler Kennedy, who drove the net for a shot that Thomas saved. That didn't happen when Nieto popped in the rebound, and the Sharks had a 2-0 lead at 4:44 of the third.
Pavelski added to that lead at 11:46 when he jumped on the rebound of a shot by Brad Stuart from the left point and Thomas had no chance.
-- The Sharks put Scott Hannan on injured reserve Thursday with a head injury tied to the elbow delivered to the defenseman's jaw in the final minute of play Jan. 9 by Dan Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings.
McLellan described it only as an upper body injury but acknowledged it did result from the Cleary hit that prompted Hannan to go after the Red Wings forward. An instigator penalty against Hannan was later rescinded, but the league did not impose any supplemental discipline on Cleary.
Hannan did play the next game against the Boston Bruins but sat out Tuesday night against Washington.
-- While Hannan was going on injured reserve, forward Marty Havlat was coming off it Thursday, though he was not in the lineup against the Panthers. Havlat has been out with a lower body injury since Dec. 21.
Havlat indicated Wednesday he would be able to play soon, but McLellan seemed less certain.
"He's in a situation where he's getting healthier," the coach said. "When he does get completely healthy and in game shape again, then we'll consider using him."
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