Led by Logan Couture, a 21-year-old rookie who spent half the season in the American Hockey League, the Sharks rolled to a 5-0 win over the Avalanche on Thursday night before a roaring sellout crowd of 17,562 at the HP Pavilion.
With their second consecutive victory, the Sharks have taken a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals and can move on Saturday night in Game 6 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
"It was cool," said Couture, who was summoned from Worcester in the American Hockey League for the final time on March 16. "My first two-goal game (in the NHL) and to get it in the playoffs … even to score one goal in the playoffs was amazing. To get the second one was extra special."
Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was pretty special, too. The Avalanche aren't applying the kind of pressure on him as the Sharks have against Anderson, but he needed to make 17 of his 28 saves in the third period to complete his seventh career postseason shutout.
"It's just a little icing on the cake," Nabokov said of the shutout. "But we got the win, and that's the important thing."
Nabokov was grateful for the five-goal cushion but expects Saturday's potential clinching game to be more difficult.
"We still have one game to win," he said. "This was a great game, but we're probably going to face the toughest night the next one. We have to enjoy (this) for a night and get back to work tomorrow."
Anderson, who was pulled with 8:56 remaining after yielding four goals on 33 shots, has played exceptionally well in the series, but Nabokov has quietly been putting up some impressive numbers, stopping 77 of 79 shots in the past three games.
The Sharks also got goals from Joe Pavelski, Dwight Helminen and Patrick Marleau in the first game of the series decided by more than one goal.
"That was our plan, to break through and wear them down," Pavelski said. "We showed a little bit tonight. We finally scored (two) on the power play, which was good to see. You never know. You expect that one-goal game, especially the way the series has gone, so to get a few was good."
Couture collected his second goal at 10:37 of the third period when he knocked in the rebound of Ryane Clowe's shot to make it 4-0.
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco replaced Anderson with Peter Budaj 27 seconds later when Cody McLeod took a five-minute penalty for boarding, figuring the 28-year-old goalie could use the rest for Game 6.
Marleau finally broke through for his first goal of the series during the major power play.
"I feel we got what we deserved tonight," Sacco said. "I don't think we played well enough to win for 60 minutes."
If the Sharks have worn down his young team -- which is missing several injured forwards, including Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller -- Sacco said that shouldn't be the case.
"This is playoff hockey," he said. "We shouldn't be tired this time of the year. We should be re-energized. The level of play picks up in the playoffs, and at this time of the year you need to find a way to battle through it."
The Sharks struck for three goals in a span of 7:05 in the second period to build a 3-0 lead, after which they owned a lopsided 29-11 advantage in shots.
"It really has been a strange series with all the bounces and the way the pucks are going in the net," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Finally tonight, the puck went over the goal line when we needed it to. We finally got rewarded with five goals."
The Sharks had a huge territorial edge, as they have in four consecutive games, yet they did get some of the luck they thought they'd been lacking in previous contests.
Couture drove to the front of the net and was able to tip Dany Heatley's shot from the right circle at 8:25.
"I turned around and Heater made a great play," Couture said. "I don't know if it was a shot or a shot/pass, but he put it right on my stick and I tipped it."
When Pavelski scored on a power play at 10:21 for a 2-0 advantage, it marked the first time in the series that either team had managed to take a two-goal lead.
Anderson, who stopped 94 of 96 shots in the previous two games, lost an edge and fell to his left as Dan Boyle was feeding Pavelski near the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo inside the blue line. By the time Anderson scrambled to his feet and dived to his right, Pavelski was firing the puck into the net at 10:21.
Helminen increased the lead to 3-0 at 15:30. Scott Nichol shot wide of the net and the puck caromed to Helminen skating down right wing. Helminen chipped the puck under the crossbar.
"We needed a bounce like that," Couture said. "It seemed like they were getting all the bounces (before) and we definitely needed that."
Shift of the Night: The goal itself didn’t mean much, but when San Jose's Patrick Marleau scored a power-play goal with 6:36 remaining to complete the Sharks' 5-0 win, Marleau might have breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was the first goal of the series for the Sharks' Big Three, the others being Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. Marleau drove to the net to shovel the rebound of Heatley’s shot behind Avalanche backup goalie Peter Budaj.
1 - 0 SJS
2 - 0 SJS