It took a video review to confirm the puck crossed the goal line before the final buzzer went off, so the Avalanche and Sharks had to wait a bit before they could exit the ice.
"It feels awesome," said Duchene, who scored a first-period power-play goal. "I didn't think it was going to count. I know the buzzer here sometimes is a little late. Obviously you're real excited at first, but holding back a bit in case it doesn't count. I was just in the right place at the right time. I didn't know (the goal counted) until they showed it on the Jumbotron. It just shows you have to play for the full 65 (minutes) sometimes, or 64.8."
The Avalanche called time with 11.2 seconds left after Niemi made a save against PA Parenteau, setting up a faceoff in the Sharks end. Duchene won the draw against Joe Pavelski, and defenseman Jan Hejda passed to Parenteau for a shot that ricocheted off Pavelski.
"PA is such a good quarterback with the puck out there," Duchene said. "He makes things happen. I was in the right place at the right time. I probably almost had the least amount to do with it until the end. It feels good and it's a big win for us. The puck jumped out and I was able to get a stick on it. I can't say I aimed it and I can't say I meant to do it."
Parenteau, who also set up Duchene's first goal with a nifty pass, was confident the goal would count.
"I wasn't sure how much time was left when I shot," said Parenteau, who also set up Duchene's first goal and has a career-best six-game point-scoring streak that includes two goals and eight assists. "I got all of it on that shot and he was quick on the rebound. I thought it was going to be good, but you never know."
Niemi, who faced 42 shots – seven in overtime – had a feeling it was a good goal.
"Yeah, because I thought I heard the horn after (the puck) was already by me," he said. "But then they wanted to check it, so I hoped for the best."
Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan: "We can look and analyze that a hundred times if we want. It hits (Pavelski) in the chest, falls right on the guy's tape and he puts it in the net."
The Sharks clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game with 3:25 left in the third period when Logan Couture converted a pass from Joe Thornton, who kept Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick's clear around the boards from exiting the zone. Couture beat goalie Semyon Varlamov (36 saves) high to the glove side.
"The d-man kind of rimmed it and I saw (Couture) just spinning and he's been shooting the puck great, so I hit it and he did the rest," Thornton said.
While the Avalanche were coming off an emotional 6-2 win against Chicago on Friday that handed the Blackhawks their first regulation loss in 25 games this season, the Sharks were trying to rebound from a deflating 4-3 overtime loss at home to St. Louis on Saturday. Niemi was pulled in the third period of that game after the Sharks squandered a 3-1 lead.
"Mixed emotions," McLellan said of Sunday's defeat. "To scramble back and fight back on the road down two (goals) is nice. The way it ends, with (less than a second left) and you don't get a chance at the shootout, that's a little bit disappointing."
Ryan O'Reilly gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead at 6:58 of the second period, but the Sharks answered with 39.1 seconds remaining on a goal by Patrick Marleau – the 400th of his NHL career -- after the Avalanche iced the puck two times in a row.
O'Reilly scored shortly after the Avalanche killed off a Sharks power play during which Varlamov made seven saves. Aaron Palushaj carried the puck into the Sharks end and passed to O'Reilly cutting to the net.
"We attacked with speed, and that's our game," O'Reilly said.
Duchene scored the lone first-period goal on a power play at 6:47. It was the Avalanche's third power-play goal in two games after they went 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the previous five games.
"Dutchie had a real good game. He was flying all over the ice," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "He used his speed very effectively and was challenging their ‘D' wide and taking it to the net."
Both teams reached the halfway point in the 48-game season. The Sharks are 11-7-6 and the Avalanche are 10-10-4; Colorado hasn't been above .500 since winning two of its first three games.
"Everything is within reach now," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of the playoff race. "I like the fact that our team is coming to form. We're healthy again and I think we can be a pretty good team."
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