Nabokov made a career-high 50 saves in 65 minutes and three more in the shootout before Marleau's goal in the breakaway competition gave the Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Wings on Thursday night.
The Wings had won the first three meetings this season, including a pair of decisive victories at San Jose, and the teams could meet in the opening round of the playoffs with the Sharks as the No. 1 seed and the Red Wings at No. 8.
"It definitely does (feel good)," Marleau said. "It's always hard coming in here, especially when you've played a game the night before.
But Nabokov said any win is important.
"We got two points, that's what counts," he said after winning his 11th consecutive decision o. "Two points is two points. I don't care who they're against."
Marleau gave the Sharks the win when he deked goaltender Jimmy Howard before beating him with a wrist shot.
"I came in and just waited for him to make a move," Marleau said. "He tried for the poke check and I was able to get around him."
The Sharks, who are ending the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule with a six-game road trip, were coming off a 3-0 loss at Columbus on Wednesday.
"We dug our heels in and found a way to get some points," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.
Despite the Wings' huge shot total, McLellan wasn't unhappy with his team's defensive effort.
"I think our team sometimes plays a little bit better -- I think we manage the puck better when we're tired," he said. "They still had however many shots they had, so they attacked. But we found a way not to turn the puck over as much as we have in the past against them."
"We did a good job boxing out -- they didn't get many any second chances -- and Nabby took care of the original ones."
Johan Franzen and Jason Williams scored for Detroit, and Howard made 24 saves in Detroit's second consecutive shootout loss. The Wings are 4-8 in games decided by shootout for the season,
"We did battle back and get one point out of it," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But I think we had some quality chances to win the game, too. Their goalie was the difference. He made some great saves."
Wings coach Mike Babcock had no complaints with his team's performance.
"We played well. We played with good tempo. We looked like a hockey team," he said. "We had every opportunity to win."
As for his team's shootout struggles, Babcock said simply, "We have to get better at it."
Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom returned after missing a game because of a sore left knee and got an assist. Holmstrom is a member of the defending champion Swedish Olympic team. If he has a setback, he could be replaced by Franzen.
Williams tied it at 2-2 with 7:05 left when he beat Nabokov with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot. It wasn't originally called a goal. But after play was halted 12 seconds later, video review showed the puck went in and out under the crossbar. It was Williams' fourth goal.
Franzen opened the scoring 12-17 into the game with a power-play goal when his shot from the top of the right circle went in off of Nabokov's glove. It was Franzen's first goal in his second game after missing four months because of left knee surgery.
"I think we played good. We played with a lot of speed," Franzen said. "It looked like last year, not like the past two months here."
Thornton tied it 25 seconds later when he put the rebound of Niclas Wallin's shot off the backboards into the empty net behind Howard for his 16th goal.
"To have Jumbo's (Thornton's) line come right back and respond was big," McLellan said. "It got everybody up on the bench."
Rookie Dwight Helminen made it 2-1 with just 10 seconds left in the opening period when he scored on a one-time shot from the slot. It was a moment to savor for Helminen, who grew up in Brighton, Mich., about 40 miles west of Detroit, and played at the University of Michigan.
"That's one I'll remember for sure," Helminen said about his second career goal. "I had a lot of family at the game."