Nabokov responds to critics

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET


 Forget the eight goals scored against him in the opening two games of the series.

 Last night in Game 3, San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov lived up to the kudos Darryl Sutter threw his way during this NHL Western Conference final series between the San Jose Sharks and the Calgary Flames.

 "He's the best goaltender we've faced in these playoffs," said the Flames GM/head coach between Games 2 and 3.

 Last night, Nabokov helped rescue the Sharks from going down three games in the conference final.

 The Kazakhstan goalie made 34 stops in spearheading the Sharks to a 3-0 victory at the Saddledome.

 "I will take full responsibility for them," said Nabokov of the two losses by the Sharks in San Jose.

 "You've got to try to give your team the best chance to win. That's including the goalie."

 It was the third shutout of these playoffs for Nabokov, who netted two in Round 2 against the high-octane offence of the Colorado Avalanche.

 Nabokov came into last night with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.

 His performance in the opening two games of the series were criticized but he bounced back strong in this one.

 "No single player can win in the playoffs. I don't ever see one anyway," Nabokov said.

 "It was a complete team effort. I think in the playoffs, that's the story."

 Certainly, Nabokov was the story of Game 3, kicking out all 34 Flames shots.

 "He was allowed to see more (shots)," said Sutter, explaining why the Sharks goalie was so tough to beat.

 Nabokov's game-saver came early in the third period, when Craig Conroy entered the zone and into the slot on a Flames rush.

 Nabokov turned the hot-handed assistant captain away by stretching out the right leg pad to stop the far-side shot.

 The Sharks goalie also stopped Rhett Warrener coming out from beside the net in the third period.

 Earlier with the score 1-0, he turned away Jordan Leopold in the late stages of the second period.

 Leopold unloaded a low point-shot labelled for the far corner but, with Martin Gelinas in his face, Nabokov somehow saw enough of the shot to kick out the left leg pad and keep the Flames off the scoreboard.

 "He's been superb all playoffs," said Sharks defenceman Kyle McLaren.

 "The first two games he got criticism he didn't deserve.

 "It wasn't his fault and he backed it up (last night). He had a stellar game for us."


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