Sharks grab Pacific leadThere was nothing but good news Monday night for the San Jose Sharks – on the ice at HP Pavilion and on scoreboards throughout the NHL.
The Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 and climbed back into first place in the Pacific Division for the first time since Feb. 25.
San Jose got help from Calgary, which knocked off first-place Dallas 5-4, and from Vancouver, which held on to defeat Los Angeles 1-0. By the end of the night, the Sharks had 88 points and owned the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference playoff race, while passing Dallas (87), idle Phoenix (87) and Los Angeles (86) in the Pacific.
The Sharks have now won three straight games for the first time since Jan. 24-Feb. 2 when they beat the Calgary, Columbus and Dallas. They'll go for four straight Wednesday night at Anaheim.
Joe Pavelski, Andrew Desjardins and Torrey Mitchell each scored a goal in the second period when the Sharks built a commanding 3-1 lead. Pavelski added his second goal of the night goal early in the third period, giving him 300 career points, and Ryane Clowe scored an empty-netter late in the period.
Shane O'Brien scored a second-period goal for the Avs, who lost their third straight game.
The loss, which ruined former Sharks forward Jamie McGinn's homecoming, was devastating for Colorado, which remained in 10th place in the West with 86 points with just four games left to play, fewer than any other playoff contender.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 31 of 32 shots and won his third straight game.
Pavelski put the Sharks ahead 1-0 at 3:50 of the second, banging a rebound of Justin Braun's long blast past Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Braun earned an assist, and so did Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, for his 500th career NHL point.
A diving Jan Hejda blocked Braun's shot, but neither he nor Varlamov could get up off the ice in time to stop Pavelski, who scored his 28th goal of the season.
Center Andrew Desjardins made it 2-0 with a goal at 9:19 as his line, taking a pass from Tommy Wingels in the right circle and beating Varlamov with a slap shot. The line of Desjardins, Wingels and former Colorado winger Daniel Winnik, who faced his former team for the first time, continued to impress and provide much-needed offense outside of the top two lines. Wingels earned the primary assist, and Boyle added an assist and his 501st career point.
Colorado cut the lead to 2-1 at 11:47 of the second when O'Brien took a cross-ice pass from Ryan O'Reilly on a 3-on-2 rush and beat Niemi.
But just less than four minutes later, the Sharks answered with Mitchell's ninth goal of the season. Dominic Moore dug the puck out along the boards behind the Avs' net and got it to center Michal Handzus, who hit a charging Mitchell in the low slot with a pass.
Pavelski made it 4-1 just 35 seconds into the third period, tracking down a loose puck in the right circle then jamming it past Varlamov from close range.
There was plenty of action but no goals in a physical first period as Varlamov and Niemi had their way. Bodies were either flying up and down the ice of piling up in front of one net or the other.
San Jose dominated for much of the period and built a 10-6 lead in shots – thanks in part to two power plays -- but Varlamov stopped every shot he faced.
Early in the period, Sharks captain Joe Thornton hit a streaking Patrick Marleau in stride on a breakaway, but Varlamov smothered Marleau's shot from just outside the crease. In a sequence later in the period, Varlamov stopped shots from Thornton, Marleau and Brent Burns.
-by Eric Gilmore for NHL.com-
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27/03/2012 - 07:13