BUFFALO, N.Y. – Joe Thornton had two assists in his debut with San Jose, setting up Jonathan Cheechoo twice, and the Sharks snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 5-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves for his fourth win of the season – and first since Oct. 15 against Chicago – but left with 11:20 remaining. He went directly to the dressing room, and backup Nolan Schaefer finished the game.

Grant Stevenson, Milan Michalek, and Nicholas Dimitrakos also scored for the Sharks, who won for the first time since an overtime victory against Anaheim Nov. 4.

Thornton, acquired Wednesday in a four-player, blockbuster deal with the Boston Bruins, started at center between his cousin Scott Thornton and Cheechoo. The former Bruins captain hit the outside edge of the goal post with a slap shot from the blue line just nine seconds in.

The Sabres had their five-game winning streak snapped, and looked sluggish after beating Montreal in overtime Thursday night. It was also Buffalo’s first loss in regulation in 10 games (8-1-1).

San Jose (9-12-4), the last place-team in the Pacific Division, scored four goals in the first 111/2 minutes, including three in a 2-minute span to chase goalie Mika Noronen. Noronen made his first start since injuring his groin in a shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 22, and appeared to be hampered while stopping only seven of 11 shots.

Martin Biron relieved Noronen after Dimitrakos’ goal made it 4-0.

The Sharks increased their lead to five just over 2 minutes into the second period on a two-man advantage when Cheechoo scored his second of the game and ninth of the season. Standing to the right of Biron, Cheechoo banged home Thornton’s slick cross-ice pass from the bottom of the right circle.

San Jose won for the first time in 12 tries in Buffalo, the only NHL city where they had never registered a point.

Notes: Buffalo RW J.P. Dumont was diagnosed with a sports hernia that will most likely require surgery. He hasn’t played since Nov. 17. … Sabres forward Chris Thorburn made his NHL debut after being called up from Rochester of the AHL earlier in the day. … Nabokov was 0-6-4 since his last win. … Buffalo’s last loss in regulation was a 6-1 defeat in Ottawa on Nov. 12.

AP-ES-12-02-05 2233EST


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