Emotional Nolan hangs up skates

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Emotional Nolan hangs up skates

SAN JOSE After exactly 1,200 NHL games, 422 goals, 885 points and almost 1800 penalty minutes, former Sharks captain Owen Nolan wanted to remind his mother of another accomplishment when he announced his retirement from professional hockey in a press conference at HP Pavilion on Tuesday.

I think back to when I broke into the league, my mom said jokingly to me, you better not lose any teeth, or youre in trouble, mister. Well, mom, 1,200 games later I still have them all, Nolan joked, with his immediate family sitting in the front row.

One of the most effective power forwards of his era, an emotional Nolan, who spent eight seasons with the Sharks from 1995-2003, sat beside Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and fought back tears.

When your body wont do what your mind and your heart is willing to do, its time to move on, a choked up Nolan said after a 15-second pause to collect himself. Ive enjoyed every minute of it, and had the opportunity to play with some great teams and some great teammates.

Among the players in attendance were current Sharks Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns, former teammates Mike Ricci, Dave Lowry and Scott Hannan, as well as Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who is in town for the Sharks-Calgary matchup on Wednesday night and who won gold with Nolan on Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

VIDEO: Sharks time machine -- Nolan

Nolan also received congratulatory phone calls from Bryan Marchment, his agent Mike Barrett, and Bob Nicholson, the C.O.O. of Hockey Canada.

All essentially echoed Wilsons words of praise for the former first overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

He was one of the rare, prototypical power forwards that had enough skill to beat you either way, Wilson said. You look in this business, everybody is trying to find that type of player now. They just dont exist. To play that role its a physical role and very tough on your body and tough mentally and have the talent to do the other things, too, is rare.

RATTO: Is it time for the Sharks to retire Nolan's number?

He was also among the toughest and hardest players of his era to play against.

He was one of those guys that, he wasnt a dirty player at all, but if you crossed him, if he felt like he needed to get you, he had no problems doing it, Ricci said.

He was extremely competitive, said Marleau, who broke into the NHL in 1997, the year before Nolan was named captain. When he was at the top of his game, he was one of the most feared guys out on the ice. Not only could he score goals, he could lay you out with a body check or even drop the gloves and take care of it that way.

After getting traded by the Sharks to Toronto in 2003, Nolan spent time with the Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild. He was originally drafted by the Quebec Nordiques and moved with them to Colorado for just nine games before he was traded to the Sharks on Oct. 26, 1995.

He tried out for Vancouver this past September after spending last season in Switzerland, but the Canucks decided not to sign him. About a month ago, he ran into Wilson and the two talked about him retiring with the Sharks organization.

The ultimate thing was to have him retire as a San Jose Shark, Wilson said. It was something that he wanted and we wanted badly. Weve used today as a celebration and appreciation for what hes done for this franchise. It means an awful lot to us, and to see him and his family here is very exciting for us and very well deserved.

It was certainly a great gesture on their part, Nolan said.

Despite getting traded out of San Jose, Nolan kept his house, with plans to retire in the area one day.

I knew pretty well that come retirement time I was going to stay out this way, he said. My wife is from here, kids were born here, and I love it here. It was a pretty easy decision.

That didnt make it any easier for him to actually hang up his skates, though.

Its tough to give up something you love doing. I think I knew the time was already here. I think I knew it was here a little while ago, but the heart and mind just wants to keep doing it. Were all programmed to do it, and to try and gear down and accept that youre not what it once was

The fire is still there, you want to compete, but the body just cant keep up. I had to accept that, and finally realize that it was time to move on.

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

SAN JOSE – In an important rebound performance, the Sharks handled the Winnipeg Jets fairly easily in a 5-2 victory at SAP Center on Monday afternoon. They put an end to a stretch of losing five of seven (2-4-1), and have now won three of their last five (3-2-0). Here are the three main points we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Third line leads the way

We focused on Joel Ward in our primary game recap yesterday, as Ward’s performance and the play he made on the second goal stood out. But Ward’s linemates Timo Meier and Chris Tierney also put an end to lengthy scoring streaks, as Meier got a goal for the first time in 13 games and Tierney got one for the first time in 14 games.

All three players had two points, with a goal and an assist each, while Tierney and Ward were each a plus-three (Meier was a plus-two).

“Obviously for a forward you want to score goals but sometimes you just have to be patient,” Meier said. “It’s my first season in the NHL and [I’m trying to] stay patient, work hard and just keep going and do the little things right. I know it will build up to success if I do the little things right.”

Tierney was in need of a strong game maybe more than anyone else, as he continues to fill in on the third line for an injured Tomas Hertl, who still has no official timeline to return. Tierney had just one point, an assist, since scoring that goal against the Senators on Dec. 14 headed into Monday.

He liked the way his line was working.

“Both those guys on the wing are big heavy guys,” he said. “They get in the corners, they win puck battles. They go to the net hard, they get pucks out of our own end. It’s pretty easy.”

Here’s one stat we missed on the postgame sheet, too: Ward was a perfect nine-for-nine in the faceoff circle.

2 – Don’t underestimate the goaltending

While everyone got a laugh at Martin Jones’ failed try at an empty net goal in the closing seconds, Jones was as important a player the Sharks had on Monday. The Sharks looked like they were taking some time to get into the game, perhaps unaccustomed to the early start, and Jones made some point-blank saves to keep it scoreless before Ward’s shorthanded score. 

"They came out ready to play,” Pete DeBoer said of the Jets. “The first five minutes Jonesy made some big saves, allowed us to kind of get our legs going. And then I thought we really started to play.”

On the other end, goalie Michael Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was off his angle on Ward’s goal, and on Brent Burns’ power play goal, he failed to read the shot going wide and it deflected in off of the back of his skate. 

I tweeted before the game that it seems like there are more NHL teams than usual that are dealing with goaltending problems these days. In fact, the Jets got so desperate after Monday’s game that they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL. The Sharks clearly don’t have that problem, so long as Jones remains healthy. Jones’ importance to this team simply can’t be overstated, and it was proven again on Monday.

3 – Slowing down the Jets

Several players spoke about how the Sharks were able to slow down the Jets, who possess some pretty speedy players, after that initial push. Winnipeg beat the Sharks twice last season in three meetings.

“I just thought once we got pucks in [deep], [we had] some poise to hold on to it and make plays, just slow them down a little bit.” Ward said. “They’re a fast team obviously, really good on transition. If we could play in their end a little bit and frustrate them a little bit mentally, we’d get some chances.”

Jones said: “I think after the first 10 minutes we really started taking over the game. We did a good job slowing them down. They’re a really fast team with some good forwards. We did a great job through the neutral zone, kind of eliminating their speed.”

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.