DENVER -- Playing in the second half of a back-to-back, especially after an intensely physical affair the night before, its up to the leaders to get the team through nights where it may not be at its best.Patrick Marleau certainly qualifies as one of those influential few on the Sharks. With a three-goal performance keying a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night at Pepsi Center, its easy to see why.Marleau scored one goal in each of the three periods to record his first hat trick since November 27, 2009. The Sharks won their third straight game overall, including both road games this weekend after an emotional 4-1 win in Dallas on Saturday night.
Thats what you want out of a road trip like this, said Marleau. Two pretty hard fought games. Well take that, and now we have to carry it over.Its your big guys leading on days where the team maybe isnt playing as well as it can, or its a little lethargic, said Todd McLellan, noting that captain Joe Thornton had three assists on the night.With the score 1-1 after the first, Marleau scored his second of the night and Joe Pavelski added his team-leading 11th to give San Jose a two-goal lead at the second intermission.The Sharks took their first lead of the game when Marleau beautifully tipped in a low shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 7:35 of the second period.That goal held up as the game-winner, and may have been a case of practice-makes-perfect.I got it up the wall and put it to the net as quickly as possible, said Vlasic, who had the primary assist on all three of Marleaus goals. Weve actually been practicing high tips, and Patty did a great job tipping it in.Later in the second, Thornton set up shop behind the net and fed Pavelski in the circle for a one-timer at 16:47. Overall, the Sharks have outscored the opposition 30-11 in the second period, including a combined 7-0 during their three-game winning streak.Thomas Greiss did the rest, finishing with 36 saves. The Avalanche outshot the Sharks 37-18 in all, although the defense corps did a good job for most of the night in keeping the shots to the outside and letting the goaltender track it down.Most of the shots were like from the blue line or the perimeter, said Greiss. It was pretty good. Most times I could see the puck right into my chest. It was a really good job by the D.Greiss improved to 4-3, and improved his goals-against average to 1.99 and save percentage to .929.Thats why we feel good about Thomas, because he can pitch those games, said McLellan.Greiss was making his first start since Nov. 12, when the Sharks failed to crack the scoreboard in a 3-0 loss to Phoenix their only defeat in the last six games (5-1-0).It was good to get a win again, especially after last game, to bounce back.The Sharks also played disciplined a necessity against the Avalanche, who sport the NHLs second best power play. Colorado was just 0-for-1 with a man advantage, while the Sharks were 1-for-6, with the one coming on Marleaus empty-netter with 43 seconds left.Some late minor penalties to Brandon Yip and Erik Johnson helped to nullify some momentum that was building for the Avalanche, when they were applying their best offensive pressure of the night while trying to get back into the game.A couple penalties kind of backed them off a bit, said Vlasic. It gave us a little bit more momentum on the bench, and we were able to squeak out with a victory.The Sharks move into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division for the first time this season with 25 points (12-5-1). They also have the highest winning percentage in the league at .694.Colorado opened the scoring the 12th time in 18 games the Sharks have allowed the first goal when Matt Duchesne tallied his ninth of the season. Colorados leading scorer turned around Douglas Murray in the offensive zone, before a cross-ice pass to Ryan Wilson. Wilson sent it back to Duchesne, who fired in a wrist shot past a diving Greiss at 7:25 of the first.The Sharks tied it shortly after on Marleaus first of the game. Just two seconds after a penalty expired to Colorados Gabriel Landeskog, Marleau charged toward the net and managed to slip in a pass from the point by Vlasic at 12:16.Vlasic was happy to see Marleau complete his fourth career hat trick with the empty-netter at the end.Hes been playing great. He gets a lot of points every year, but its the little things he does getting pucks out, winning battles along the wall, that dont show up on the scoresheet but the guys appreciate very much.He gets rewarded tonight which is nice to see. Hopefully there will be more to come. Im sure its a confidence booster for him, so Im sure hell keep shooting it even more now.The Sharks return home Wednesday night to host the Chicago Blackhawks.Odds and ends: The Sharks 18 shots was a season low. San Jose took just one penalty, an interference minor to Dan Boyle at 8:38 of the second period. Jean-Sebastien Giguere took the loss in net for Colorado, with 14 saves on 17 shots. San Jose won the faceoff battle, 33-21. Colin White and Justin Braun returned to the lineup for Jason Demers and Jim Vandermeer, who played in Dallas. Torrey Mitchell skated on a line with Marleau and Clowe, while Martin Havlat was with Michael Handzus and Jamie McGinn.