Lemieux Plays in Sharks Overtime Win

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Joe Thornton set up Devin Setoguchi's tying goal in regulation and Patrick Marleau's overtime winner, and the San Jose Sharks celebrated Claude Lemieux's return to the NHL after a 5½-year absence with a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Lemieux played a regular shift on the fourth line in his first
NHL game since 2003 for the Sharks, who gave one of their most
listless efforts of the season until the last minute of regulation.
Evgeni Nabokov made 13 saves for San Jose, which will enter the
All-Star break with at least a share of the overall league lead.

Roberto Luongo stopped 27 shots for the Canucks, who lost their
sixth straight after surrendering Setoguchi's tying goal with 39.1
seconds left. With Nabokov pulled for an extra attacker, Thornton
threaded a pass from behind the goal to Setoguchi, who found a
slight opening.

After Daniel Sedin committed a hooking penalty midway through
overtime, Thornton made a cross-ice pass to Marleau for the San
Jose captain's 25th goal. Marleau is expected to be added to the
West All-Star team soon, joining Thornton, defenseman Dan Boyle and
coach Todd McLellan in Montreal.

A violent scrum erupted as the teams left the ice when Henrik
Sedin ran into Nabokov and Ryane Clowe, who responded angrily. Both
teams traded shoves, and Vancouver enforcer Shane O'Brien was
frustrated in his attempt to confront Clowe.

Taylor Pyatt scored in the first period for the Canucks, who
were a few moments away from becoming just the second opponent to
win a regular-season game in regulation at the Shark Tank since
last Feb. 14. Calgary ended San Jose's streak of 31 consecutive
home games with at least one point last Thursday.

All eyes at the sold-out Shark Tank were on Lemieux, the
43-year-old forward who won four Stanley Cups and a playoff MVP
award during parts of 20 NHL seasons. He left the league after the
2003 playoffs with Dallas, but started a comeback with the Sharks'
minor-league affiliate nearly two months ago.

The Sharks on Monday recalled Lemieux, who wore a teal No. 32
jersey when he skated out among his teammates for pregame warmups.

He entered the game with 17:56 left in the first period, receiving
a steady round of cheers from the Shark Tank crowd while joining
Jody Shelley and Tomas Plihal on the Sharks' fourth line.

He expected to be nearly as nervous as he was before his NHL
debut with the Montreal Canadiens nearly 24 years earlier, but it
didn't show against the Canucks. He played four shifts apiece in
each of the first two periods, finishing with 7:08 of ice time on
12 shifts.

Though Setoguchi ruined his bid for his 44th career shutout,
Luongo was sharp in just his third game back after an eight-week
absence with a groin injury. He made his biggest save while flat on
his back with about 8 minutes left, somehow looking up quickly
enough to glove Boyle's shot cleanly from a prone position.

Nabokov denied Mats Sundin on a breakaway with 3½ minutes to
play, making sure the Sharks will head to the break at least in a
tie for the overall lead with Boston, which plays at Toronto on
Wednesday night. The Bruins and San Jose both had 71 points
entering the night.

Vancouver fell one point behind Edmonton for second place in the
Northwest Division even though defenseman Sami Salo returned to the
lineup after a 15-game absence with a broken rib,. High-scoring
forward Pavol Demitra sat out to rest his strained groin.

Notes: S
harks D Rob Blake sat out his second game since getting
hit in the face with a puck. He was back at practice with San Jose
on Monday, and he expects to play next week with a guard covering
the lower half of his face.

Former Sharks D Rob Davison was a healthy scratch for Vancouver.

Demitra hopes to return next week after getting hurt in a loss to Columbus last Sunday. Curiously, Vancouver is 6-3-2 without Demitra in its lineup this season.