WASHINGTON, DC If there was an unmistakable sign that it was Joe Pavelskis night, look no further than the first goal of the Sharks 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Monday night.
The Sharks forward was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when he got his stick on a slap shot from Dan Boyle, who wound up behind center ice. Pavelski tipped the puck at the blue line and it skipped in on goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed it to squeak by at 12:12 of the first period.
Boyle was trying to fire it on net to give a charging Joe Thornton a chance at the rebound, while Pavelski just wanted to prevent an icing call.
You see it bounce, and you hope when youre that far away that something stupid happens, and it did, Pavelski said.
That gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, and Pavelski tallied another goal and two assists to tie his career high of four points before the evening was through.
Thornton finished with three assists and Patrick Marleau a pair of goals as the Sharks improved to 1-1 on their season-long nine-game road trip. They opened up a three-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division in the process, with three games in hand.
The power play played a huge role for the Sharks, too. They were 0-for-4 with a man advantage on Sunday night's 3-0 loss in St. Louis, ending a stretch where they had been an impressive 10 for their last 22 in the eight games prior. They put that effort against the Blues quickly behind them in Washington, though, finishing 3-for-6.
We wanted to get back to making crisp tape-to-tape passes and getting our shots through, and guys in the right spots, Marleau said. We were able to do that tonight, and it paid off.
A real good sign of leadership, when it can bounce back an respond the way it did, said Todd McLellan of the power play.
After Pavelskis goal was the only marker of the first period, San Jose had a comfortable 3-0 lead in the second period thanks to power play goals from Pavelski and Marleau, and looked like it would head to the locker room with that cushion after 40 minutes. Instead, Dmitry Orlovs slap shot handcuffed Thomas Greiss, and the puck trickled over the line with less than a second to go in the period to keep the Capitals in the game.
To their credit, the Sharks werent rattled to start the third, and quickly gained a 5-1 lead. Brent Burns blast through traffic got past Holtby at 4:36, while Marleau managed to get his stick on a pass from Thornton in front of the net for another power play tally at 7:03.
That Orlov goal was a tough goal to give up, but that fourth goal was huge, Boyle said. It gave us a little more breathing room, and we fought hard tonight.
You never want to give one up at that point, McLellan said. Youve got the crowd thats in it now, youve got a coach that was probably upset going in, and in one second he changes his mind and hes now selling, hey we can do this.
The coach had a clear message for his team at the intermission.
We challenged our guys. Its up to them. They can choose to be on their heels, or they can choose to get on their toes and get after them. Im glad they chose the second.
Roman Hamrliks backhander through traffic midway through the third made it 5-2, while a low slapper by Jeff Schultz beat Greiss to the short side at 14:09, but the Capitals wouldnt come any closer in losing for the eighth time in their last 11 games (3-5-3).
Meanwhile, the Sharks improved to 16-1-0 against Washington since the start of the 1999-2000 season, including a 5-2 win at HP Pavilion on Jan. 7.
After the early gift goal, Pavelski got his second of the game at 3:26 of the second. Couture managed to push the puck towards the net through defenseman Kyle Alzner, and Pavelski skillfully flipped it over the shoulder of Holtby for his 22nd of the season.
Later, Thornton drew a high-sticking penalty on Jeff Halpern and the power play went to work again. This time, Couture deflected a wrister from the point by Pavelski, which hit Holtby in the chest before falling to the ice. Marleau was in front to deposit it at 15:11.
Greiss, making his first start since a Feb. 2 win against Dallas, was outstanding in stopping the first 29 shots fired in his direction before Orlovs stoppable shot cut into the Sharks lead.
The first two periods I played very well, he said, before adding the Orlov goal was a bad play on my part.
Greiss improved to 8-4-1 with 39 saves, and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.
The first period had a frantic pace to it, in direct contrast to the Sharks loss in St Louis. Early in the game, Tommy Wingels, returning from a nine-game absence with a left shoulder injury, nearly put the Sharks ahead on a pair of chances in front of the net on a delayed penalty call, but Holtby stopped them both with his glove.
San Jose had a couple of defensive breakdowns in the first on which the Caps failed to capitalize. Alex Semins blast was challenged and stopped by Griess, while Orlov had a wide-open look from the circle but fired high.
The Capitals almost took the lead on a shorthanded breakaway by Brooks Laich, but Greiss got just enough of it to keep the game scoreless midway through the first.
Holtby made his first start of the season as Tomas Vokoun is suffering from an illness, and Michal Neuvirth played on Sunday in New York. Holtby played 14 games last season, and made the drive from Washingtons AHL affiliate in Hershey earlier in the day.
San Jose made it a night to forget for him, though, in what was a key win early on their marathon trek up and down the East Coast.
We wanted that first one yesterday and didnt get it, Pavelski said. It was really important for us, you see what happened with Chicago it just keeps snowballing and never gets easier on the road. You take the wins as you get them.
Odds and ends: Tommy Wingels started the game on the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe in his return, but was later moved to the fourth line. Jim Vandermeer and Benn Ferriero were San Joses healthy scratches. Jason Demers remains out with a lower body injury. Joe Pavelskis previous four-point game came on March 15, 2011 in Dallas.