January 28, 2002
Vinnie's going strong
Damphousse productive as a Shark
By HERB ZURKOWSKY
At age 34, Vincent Damphousse shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed, the former Canadiens captain talks optimistically of playing beyond the expiration of his contract, which has a year and an option remaining.
"I feel strong. I'm not ready to hang them up. I believe I have a lot of years ahead of me," Damphousse said following San Jose's 3-1 loss to Montreal. "I don't think this will be my last contract.
"I enjoy coming to the rink; it's fun. And I'm playing on a club that wins. We have good, young talent and (management) is aggressive in its plan to build a winner."
Damphousse is one of three Sharks, along with the injured Owen Nolan and Mike Ricci, to have produced a team-leading 35 points this season. While San Jose undoubtedly could have used a goal - it would have been his 14th - from him yesterday, the veteran centre nonetheless put in a full day's work.
He played 22 shifts for a total of 22 minutes and 10 seconds, seeing duty on both the power-play and penalty-killing units. Damphousse had three of the Sharks' 27 shots on Jose Theodore.
This was Damphousse's third game against his former team - one for which he played from 1992 until his March 1999 trade to the Sharks - including his second visit to the Molson Centre.
Damphousse has fond memories of the Canadiens' new arena - he scored the first goal on March 16, 1996 against the New York Rangers - and his years in Montreal, where he enjoyed some his finest moments, including a career-high 40-goal season and a Stanley Cup championship in 1993.
"Those were the best years of my career," he said. "Not only did I get to play at home, but we won a Cup. It was a time in my life where I needed to be close to my family.
"I've got no regrets, only good memories."
But Damphousse was disappointed with his new team's performance. The Sharks, in the midst of five-game road trip prior to the all-star break, had been idle since Thursday. And yet they were unable to take advantage of a Montreal team playing its second game in 24 hours.
San Jose controlled the first period against the Canadiens, scoring the only goal and outshooting Montreal 10-4. But the tide started to turn 12 minutes into the second period, when Doug Gilmour scored on the power play. Sergei Berezin scored the winner, again with the man advantage, early in the third. The visitors took four consecutive penalties in the second period.
"Taking that many penalties," Damphousse explained, "we had to keep putting the same guys out there, while other guys (who don't kill penalties) were forced to sit on the bench."
The Sharks surrendered an incredible four power-play goals in their last game, a 6-2 loss at Columbus. They are, however, missing their best penalty killers - Mike Rathje and Marcus Ragnarsson - to injury.
But San Jose also was victimized by shoddy netminding from Evgeni Nabokov, last season's NHL rookie of the year, who faced only 22 shots.
"Our goaltender gave up a bad goal. That was the difference in the game," said Sharks coach Darryl Sutter. "Our goaltending hasn't been as stellar as it should be."
Berezin's goal, a low shot from the right-wing circle, beat Nabokov between the legs.
"I was expecting the shot, but I didn't close the five-hole in time," Nabokov said. "It just happened."