In a season punctuated by three demotions to the minor leagues, Chicago Blackhawks rookie Jean-Pierre Dumont had played in just seven NHL games before Saturday and claimed to be "nervous with the puck" in all of them.
But the eighth time, Dumont looked cool.
"I had been nervous every time I'd come up to the NHL," said Dumont, who had 32 goals and 46 points in 50 games with Portland of the AHL this season. "Before tonight's game, though, the coach (Lorne Molleken) told me, `Don't worry. Just play like you played downstairs (in the minors)."'
Dumont took the advice to heart.
The game was scoreless until near the end of the second period. Then, with the teams at even strength, the 20-year-old rookie right wing scored from the left circle to give the Blackhawks the lead at 15:54.
Then, after a late-second-period goal by Josef Marha - his first of the season, too - Dumont gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead midway through the final period.
Chicago's Eric Daze picked up the puck in San Jose's end and passed it to Dumont, who was alone at center ice. Dumont drove in for a goal from point-blank range with 11:45 left in the game.
"I've got some confidence now," Dumont said. "I'm not nervous with the puck now."
Molleken added, "The kids (Dumont and Marha) certainly had something to do with the win tonight. The were a breath of fresh air."
Meanwhile, Thibault was suffocating at the other end of the ice, stopping 23 San Jose shots to earn his fifth shutout of the season and 12th of his NHL career.
The Sharks' Owen Nolan appeared to have broken the shutout with a goal with 54 seconds left in the game, but it was disallowed by a skate-in-the-crease infraction.
Thibault helped hold off the Sharks when San Jose had a two-man advantage midway through the first period.
"We had such a great chance then, but we didn't do anything with it," San Jose assistant coach Bernie Nicholls said. "We're a very good team when we get ahead, but we couldn't get it tonight. We let them hang around and finally get the lead. The failure when we were two men up, and then their goal, just took the life out of us."
The Blackhawks increased their lead to 2-0 when Christian Laflamme shot from just inside the blue line, and the puck deflected off Marha and through the legs of San Jose goaltender Steve Shields. The goal came on a power play and broke an 0-15 power-play streak for the Blackhawks.
| Chicago's Jean-Pierre Dumont celebrates his first NHL goal with Eric Daze. (AP)|
The final Blackhawk score came with 3:29 remaining when Chad Kilger picked up the puck at the blue line and drove in for a backhand shot at close range for his 13th goal.
The result snapped a two-game losing streak for Chicago and a two-game winning streak for San Jose. Chicago is 2-5 in its last seven games, while the Sharks are 2-3-1 in their last six.
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