SAN JOSE The San Jose Sharks took over sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with convincing 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at HP Pavilion.
Joe Pavelski scored twice while Andrew Desjardins and Torrey Mitchell also added goals as San Jose greatly improved its playoff probability while severely impairing the Avs chances. San Jose and Colorado both got some help in that the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings both lost in regulation to Calgary and Vancouver, respectively.
The game marked the first time San Jose scored four goals in a regulation or overtime game since Feb. 16 in a 6-5 loss in Tampa Bay, a span of 21 games. It was the first time they won a game by at least four goals since Jan. 31 vs. Columbus, 6-0.
San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) now leads the Stars by a single point. Both teams have played 76 games, and have two more head-to-head meetings in the final six games of the regular season.
The Sharks were the beneficiaries of some fortunate bounces in taking a 3-1 lead in the second period, after a scoreless first.
Pavelski opened the scoring at 3:50 of the second. A slap shot by Justin Braun hit Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda in the slot and bounced right to Pavelskis stick for an easy goal by the Sharks winger.
Desjardins first goal in 40 games made it 2-0. After a good shift by his line, which included Tommy Wingels and Daniel Winnik, Desjardins deposited his wrist shot from the circle on a backhanded feed from behind the net by Wingels. It was a goal Semyon Varlamov should have stopped at 9:19.
Colorado got back into the game with a goal at 11:47. On an odd-man rush, Shane OBrien easily slammed home a pass from Ryan OReilly after San Jose got caught deep in its own zone.
The Avalanche swarmed the Sharks a bit immediately following the goal, but were unable to get anything else past Niemi. The Sharks' goalie finished with 31 saves in his 15th straight start.
Mitchell managed to pop in a loose puck from the slot after a wraparound attempt by Michal Handzus at 15:44 of the second.
On the ensuing shift, Colorados David Jones rang a shot from the circle squarely off of the post. Thornton hit a post, too, trying to slip a loose puck into a wide open net with two minutes to go in the middle frame.
Pavelski got his second of the night early in the third on a carry-over power play. Colorado allowed Pavelski to walk towards the net from the corner boards and poke one through Varlamov at 35 seconds.
Ryane Clowes empty-net goal at 16:23 capped the scoring, as Avalanche coach Joe Sacco pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with about four minutes left in regulation.
The first period resembled a match between two teams fighting for their playoff lives. It was physical, fast paced and nasty from the outset.
Former Shark Jamie McGinn, playing in his first game back in San Jose since a trade on Feb. 27, crashed the net in the opening minutes and was quickly pushed away by a swarm of Sharks. Later in the period, Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog violently shoved Marty Havlat after the Sharks winger was digging for a puck in the crease. The result for Landeskog was a facewash and headlock from behind by Clowe, who immediately came to the aid of his linemate.
The Sharks have six games remaining, including four on the road. They visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday and Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.
Odds and ends: Dan Boyle recorded his 500 and 501st career points with assists on the first two Sharks goals. Desjardins last goal before Monday was on Dec. 21 vs. Tampa Bay. Colorado has allowed the first goal 45 times, the second highest total in the league. Joe Pavelski recorded his 300th career NHL point with his third period power play goal.