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Associated Press
10/23/2006 10:46:54 PM


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The hottest goaltender to start the NHL season is also a guy who was among the hottest at the end of last season.

Vesi Toskala ran his winning streak to 12 games with his fifth career shutout in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

''A shutout is nice, but the most important thing is to get those two points,'' Toskala said.

Steve Bernier, Jonathan Cheechoo and Marcel Goc each had goals for the Sharks.

Toskala is 5-0-0 this season while allowing just under two goals a game with a .926 save percentage. The 12-game winning streak is the longest in Sharks history. He has also won his last eight starts on the road.

'I feel comfortable on the ice,'' Toskala said. ''It always feels good after you get a couple of good saves. I saw the puck well. Our defencemen blocked so many shots, and that really helps a goalie a lot.''

Toskala had plenty of help, but was solid when Columbus did get off a shot.

''We played good team defence all the way around,'' defenceman Scott Hannan said. ''When we needed him, Ves was there to stop it.''

Columbus has lost four consecutive games while being outscored 17-5.

''San Jose is a good hockey team, but there is no reason for that to happen to us,'' Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant said. ''They made us look bad out there. They embarrassed us.''

The Sharks were 2-for-8 on the power play while Columbus failed to score on seven chances with a man-advantage.

''It (defence) was really good, in particular our penalty-killing,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. ''We limited their opportunities and we might actually have had more opportunities killing penalties than they did on their power play.''

Toskala, who stopped 23 shots, had all the support he needed just 2½ minutes in.

On the power play after Jason Chimera was called for holding, the Sharks surrounded Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire. Bernier controlled the puck while skating behind the net and centred it to Milan Michalek, whose shot was stopped. Matt Carle picked up the rebound and Leclaire left the net to cut down his angle. With Leclaire unable to get back, Bernier was on the doorstep when he got the puck with an unguarded net in front of him.

San Jose defenceman Josh Gorges was tripped while swooping in on the Columbus goal by defenceman Ron Hainsey early in the second period. Gorges slid hard into the corner boards on his left shoulder and needed assistance getting off the ice, although he later returned.

Not long after that, the Sharks put the game out of reach with two quick goals.

First Cheechoo notched his fifth goal, putting a power-play shot just inside the back post at the 3:15 mark after setup passes from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

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Matt Carle is playing great for the Sharks. Good for him and Bernier. San Jose has got a good mix of youth and veterans and it's paying off well.

Any news on Mihalek? That didn't look to good... the way he went sliding head first into the boards. :(

Good on Toskala for getting the shutout. Kind of a shame though, 'cause it looks like it will be the end of the line for Nabokov very soon. He's playing great, but Toskala is matching him shutout for shutout (or at least he will be soon).

And when you consider the price, and how both goalies are playing well... and that one is a little younger than the other --no doubt is he finished in San Jose.

Hopefully Evgeni lands somewhere good.
 
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