The San Jose Sharks have been a dominant team at home the past several seasons, but they've built the best record in the NHL through the end of November largely on the strength of their play on the road.
Manny Malhotra and Jamie McGinn scored 13 seconds apart late in the third period to open up what had previously been a nail-biter, and the Sharks went on to a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at G.M. Place.
Frazer McLaren scored his first NHL goal, Dan Boyle's power-play strike at 6:15 of the second period put San Jose in front to stay, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 25 shots for his League-leading 16th win of the season.
The Sharks spent most of the game playing from ahead, as opposed to their previous two games – a 7-2 loss to Chicago and a 5-4 shootout win at Edmonton in which they rallied from a pair of third-period deficits to force overtime.
"We've given up way too many goals the last few games," Boyle said. "Tonight was a pretty good defensive effort. In the third I would've liked to see a little more poise back there, but at the end of the day we got the win."
San Jose, the defending Presidents' Trophy winner, leads in that race once again with 40 points, four more than Pittsburgh, the reigning Stanley Cup champion, and Washington in the Eastern Conference.
To this point, the Sharks have played 18 of their 28 games away from HP Pavilion, but their 11 road wins are the most in the League, one more than New Jersey. Now they head back to California, where they are 7-1-2 on home ice, for 13 of the next 17 games.
"It'll be nice to go home, regroup a little bit, introduce ourselves to our families and try to put some wins together there," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
The Canucks, meanwhile, saw their two-game win streak come to an end. Kyle Wellwood gave them the lead just 1:59 into the first period, but they wouldn't get another puck past Nabokov until Jannik Hansen scored with 6.3 seconds remaining.
Vancouver finished with a 13-8 shots advantage in the third and was pushing for the tie before Malhotra took a Ryan Clowe feed and beat Roberto Luongo on a breakaway with 2:35 remaining. McGinn followed by scoring off a scramble for a 4-1 lead. Malhotra's insurance goal held up as the game-winner after Hansen tallied late.
"I think, unfortunately, our second period cost us again," Luongo said. "We were not very sharp. We took a few penalties and they got some momentum there and they scored the go-ahead goal."
San Jose carried play in the second, holding a 15-4 edge in shots and moving in front when Boyle scored off the rebound of a Joe Thornton blast from the left circle. With the Sharks on the man advantage after a hooking call on Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler, Boyle cruised down into the slot and put the puck past Luongo, who finished with 26 saves.
"Jumbo just (took an) easy shot at the net and I'm coming down the other side there and put it in the open net," Boyle said. "We get a little too cute sometimes and we've got to keep it simple once in a while."
McLaren became the fifth San Jose player already this season to score his first NHL goal when he tied the game with 7:42 left in the opening period. Playing his 10th career game, McLaren redirected a Joe Pavelski pass from out of the corner.
Wellwood, who failed to score a goal in his first 19 games before an empty-net tally against Los Angeles on Thursday, finally put the puck past a goaltender when he beat Nabokov to start the scoring.
"We got that first goal and played well at first, but it seemed like the penalties we took in the second period caught up to us," Wellwood said.
A pair of key players returned for the Sharks, as captain Rob Blake was back in the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury and talented forward Devin Setoguchi played after a five-game absence due to a leg injury.
"I thought he was quite steady," McLellan said of Blake. "We just talked about it as a coaching staff, there weren't any moments where we said, 'What is Blakey doing?' He was rather unnoticeable, and that's a pretty good night for a guy coming back in after a month off.
"Seto has some work to do. His effectiveness is his speed and getting to holes and then releasing the puck at the net. Right now he doesn't have that speed or that tempo in his game, but that's going to take some time."
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.
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