The Sharks were fatigued, playing in the second of a back-to-back. The Islanders were well rested, having not competed since Monday.
It made no difference in a 4-3 Sharks win, their fifth straight, and ninth overall in the last 11 games (9-1-1). San Jose (44-17-7, 95 points) moved two points ahead of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, although Anaheim plays in Colorado later Friday.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, New York drew back to within a goal twice, but the Sharks regained their two-goal cushion both times before the end of the second.
First, Anders Lee’s backhand fooled Antti Niemi just 32 seconds into the middle frame to make it 2-1.
Exactly nine minutes later, though, Joe Thornton gave San Jose its advantage back. Brent Burns gloved Matt Donovan’s clear attempt, flicked it towards the crease, and Thornton banged in an easy rebound off of long time Shark Evgeni Nabokov’s right pad at 9:32. The captain's 10th goal made it 3-1.
Brock Nelson’s deft deflection of a Donovan point shot at 17:02 against made it one-goal game again, but Marty Havlat’s third goal in his last four games on a nice setup from the corner by James Sheppard made it 4-2, Sharks.
Havlat, who only got back in to the active lineup after Raffi Torres’ knee apparently acted up, finished with two points. Torres missed his third straight game, still recovering from knee surgery in September.
Havlat’s goal, his seventh, counted as the game-winner, as Frans Nielsen brought the Islanders back to within 4-3 with 21 seconds to go when Nabokov pulled for an extra attacker. New York didn't come close to tying it after that marker.
The Sharks grabbed a 2-0 lead, taking it into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
Matt Nieto’s 10th goal got it started. The rookie got free in the slot, and Logan Couture was able to direct him the puck off of the side of the net. Nieto found space just inside the near post at 13:27 for his second goal in as many games and 10th of the season.
Jason Demers first goal since Jan. 5 made it 2-0. A picturesque passing play started with James Sheppard giving the puck to Havlat, and Havlat zoomed a pass through the slot to Demers in the circle. The defenseman aimed the puck high over Nabokov at 14:46.
Sheppard had two assists, and has nine points (1g, 8a) in his last 10 games. The 25-year-old had just six points in his first 43 games.
The Sharks withstood an early push by the Islanders, who were skating for the first time since scoring seven times in the third period of a 7-3 win in Vancouver four days earlier. New York recorded seven of the first eight shots on net, but Niemi stopped them all.
The game was penalty-free until Donovan tripped Tyler Kennedy at 3:02 of the third. The Sharks did not capitalize on the game’s only power play.
The Sharks were not shorthanded in the game, the third time that’s happened this season. San Jose has been shorthanded just 180 times, a league low.
Niemi improved to 33-13-6, with 35 saves. He's tied for second in the NHL in wins.
Nabokov played against the Sharks for the first time since the club opted not to resign him after the 2009-10 season. He missed the first game on Dec. 10 at SAP Center with a groin injury. He suffered the loss, allowing four goals on 26 shots.
Kennedy played after sitting out the last two games, in place of Mike Brown.
The Sharks recalled Bracken Kearns on Friday morning, but quickly reassigned him back to Worcester later in the day.
New York remains without superstar center John Tavares, who suffered a knee injury playing for the Canadian Olympic team in Sochi.
The Sharks wrap up their road trip on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers (1:00 p.m. PST, CSN California). They return home to host Florida on Tuesday, March 18, and Anaheim on Thursday, March 20.