Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

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Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

BOX SCORE

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.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.