SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks are finally using their quick starts and a sharp defense to their advantage.
Evgeni Nabokov made 31 saves to earn his 100th career win and the Sharks scored three first-period goals to hand the Atlanta Thrashers their sixth straight defeat, 5-2 on Saturday.
"We've been playing good in the first period all year," Sharks forward Nils Ekman said. "Getting early leads gives you the opportunity to play solid defense."
The win was the Sharks' 15th in their last 24 games, and San Jose is 17-5-8-4 since Oct. 30.
"If you play good defense, that makes good offense," Ekman's linemate Alyn McCauley said. "I think if you are thinking about defense then you can see the other team's defensive holes and then take advantage of them."
The win was Nabokov's 100th in the NHL, and he is 8-3-2 with three shutouts since returning from a strained groin on Dec. 11.
"I honestly had no idea that it was my 100th," Nabokov said. "I was just trying to stay focused and win the game. I figure if I work hard, I can win more games."
San Jose opened the scoring on a power-play goal when Alexander Korolyuk caught Pasi Nurminen leaning the wrong way at 2:08 in the first. The goal broke a 1-for-18 power-play stretch for the Sharks.
"That power play-goal gave us the momentum we needed," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "And, it carried us for the rest of the game. We didn't play all that well but that goal was like a shot in the arm for us."
Ekman scored less than three minutes later on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle after taking a pass from McCauley.
Niko Dimitrakos capped the big opening period when he grabbed the puck from Ilya Kovalchuk and Garnet Exelby at center ice and then faked a forehand shot and flipped a backhanded shot over Nurminen at the 13:20 mark.
"I was just faster than Ilya and Garnet at getting to the puck," Dimitrakos said. "Then it was just a race to get the score."
The defensive lapses the Thrashers had in the first period concerned coach Bob Hartley.
"We're a young team and we're letting other teams gain the advantage over us by the way we're defending our zone early in the game," he said. "We need to make better decisions out there on the ice and not let our mistakes cost us games."
Byron Dafoe took over for Nurminen at the start of the second period. Nurminen finished the game with four saves on seven shots.
Ivan Majesky scored Atlanta's first goal of the game at 7:09 remaining in the second period on a deflected rebound.
Patrick Marleau extended San Jose's lead to 4-1 when he scored his 19th goal of the season eight minutes into the third period.
Shawn McEachern added a late goal for the Thrashers and Mike Rathje scored an empty-net goal for the Sharks with five seconds left.