Joel Ward scored on a rebound at 2:42 of overtime to give the Capitals a 5-4 victory in at SAP Center on Wednesday.
"It was a roller coaster," said Capitals fourth-line forward Jay Beagle, who scored two goals. "It was a fun game to be a part of. It was one of those games where we were rolling four lines and everyone was involved and playing. They score, we score. It was fun. Those games are fun to be a part of and fun to win.
"To get the first win at the start of a tough road trip, a tough four games here, that's huge. It's a big momentum boost and we're looking forward to L.A. now (on Saturday)."
"Green shot it and I was fortunate enough to be there," Ward said. "We knew we had a little work to do. We had to push the reset button and come back. We put in a pretty solid effort and fortunately we got the two points. That's the main thing."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the Capitals should have been penalized before Ward scored because one of his players got tripped.
"They didn't think it was a penalty," McLellan said. "It's fair to say we disagreed with them."
Brent Burns scored two goals for San Jose (28-20-8); Logan Couture and Joe Thornton also scored and Niemi made 28 saves. The Sharks lost their third straight game and for the fifth time in their past six.
After spotting Washington a 1-0 lead in the first period on Beagle's first goal, Burns scored back-to-back goals in the first 43 seconds of the second period.
"It obviously wasn't the start to the second that we wanted, but we were all composed on the bench and knew that opportunities were going to come our way if we just stuck to the game plan," Beagle said. "We were playing well. We had a good first period, and we wanted to not panic, but make sure we get back to playing our game and going after them."
The Capitals pulled even on Brouwer's power-play goal, but Couture scored at 14:48 of the second on a wraparound, giving the Sharks a 3-2 lead.
Washington didn't have a shot for over nine minutes in the third period, but Beagle made it 3-3 at 11:17 with his second goal of the game, scoring on a rush after Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller ran into linesman Lonnie Cameron and couldn't recover.
"Fortunately on the one play, the referee or the linesman, they're part of the surface," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We got a little bit of a break. He's trying to get out of the way. It's sort of the breaks that happen. It's no different than a puck that goes off the end boards and ends up in your net.
"We sort of built some momentum off that and obviously we had some big performances from Jay Beagle. Tonight our big lines weren't going as well as they needed to. It was more of the secondary lines, your character guys, your role players, all those guys stepped up and that's another way to win."
Mueller said he was "mad for a second" and then moved on.
"It's hockey, (stuff) happens," Mueller said. "Yeah, he said sorry, obviously."
Carlson put the Capitals ahead 4-3 at 13:26 with his seventh goal of the season, beating Niemi with a shot from the right circle, but Thornton responded at 14:29.
Ward ended it in overtime with his 12th goal of the season.
"Seems like every game the other team is scoring some pretty easy goals," Couture said. "We're not making it tough. It's on the defense, it's on the forward playing low to be harder around our net. Nemo's making the first save and they're scoring on the second one. We've got to be getting sticks and being a lot stronger around our own net. It's too easy for them to score goals right now."
Holtby had allowed four goals over his previous five starts (130 saves), but he had trouble against the Sharks again. He gave up three goals on seven shots and was pulled at 9:34 of the first period on Oct. 14 when the Sharks defeated Washington 6-5 in a shootout at Verizon Center.
"I didn't feel very sharp from the start," Holtby said. "One of those nights you try to battle through. Thankfully the guys pulled one out. Had some huge performances and grinded out a tough win. The guys played great tonight and made up for my mistakes."
Sharks fans were fired up after former goaltender Evgeni Nabokov dropped the ceremonial first puck, hours after he retired from the NHL as a Shark.
But it was the Capitals who struck first.
The Sharks needed 43 seconds in the second period to catch and pass the Capitals.
San Jose opened the period with a minute left on a power play, and Burns put a wrist shot past Holtby from the point at 21 seconds while Joe Pavelski provided a screen. Twenty-two seconds later, Burns struck again, scoring his 14th goal to give San Jose a 2-1 lead. This time, Couture provided the screen in front of Holtby and Burns scored on a wrist shot from the high slot.
San Jose's lead didn't last long.
Washington pulled even at 6:17 on Brouwer's power-play goal. Alex Ovechkin sent the puck toward the low slot, and Brouwer deflected it up and over Niemi's glove for his 16th goal of the season.
But the Sharks restored the lead at 14:48 on Couture's wraparound goal. Matt Nieto fired a shot from the left circle that went wide left. Couture tracked down the puck behind the net and snuck it inside the right post for his 20th goal of the season.
"It's big for us, big for the confidence because we know it was a tough building tonight," Brouwer said of opening the road trip with a victory. "We did get a little lucky in a couple instances, to get our third goal and arguably even our overtime goal. But going into a couple tough games again with our fathers coming on the road, meeting us tomorrow in L.A., we wanted to start he trip off with a good feeling and we did."
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner played his 400th NHL game, all with Washington.