The Sharks won their third consecutive game with relative ease Sunday night at the Pepsi Center, skating to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche behind Patrick Marleau's fourth career hat trick and 36 saves from backup goalie Thomas Greiss.
The Sharks, who have used a 6-1-1 run to take over first place in the Pacific Division, seemed to play keep-away with the puck for the better part of the first two periods, one night after their 4-1 triumph in Dallas.
Marleau, who has 9 goals and 8 assists in a 13-game stretch, put the Sharks ahead for good early in the second period with his second goal, and Greiss made sure the lead would stand up while making his second start in the past seven games.
Marleau completed his hat trick with an empty-net, power-play goal with 43 seconds remaining in the third period. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic set up all three goals.
"It's nice," Marleau said of sweeping the two-game road trip. "It's what you want when you go on a trip like this. We had two pretty hard-fought games. We'll take that and carry it over to the next game."
Marleau doesn't often talk about his own play, but Vlasic was more than willing to do so.
"He's been playing great," Vlasic said. "He gets a lot of points every year, but it's the little things that he does -- getting things out, winning battles along the wall -- that don't show up on the score sheet but we appreciate very much. He got rewarded tonight with 3 goals, which is nice to see. I'm sure it's a confidence booster for him. I'm sure he'll keep shooting even more now."
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Greiss, meantime, wasn't tested all that much until the third period when he made 14 of his saves.
"He was strong for us all night," Marleau said. "They came at us in the third. They were shooting from far out and he was able to handle them. He was out playing pucks and allowing our ‘D' to get good breakouts so we didn't get hemmed in as much."
While the Sharks have gone 11-2-1 since Oct. 21, the Avalanche haven't won consecutive games since a five-game streak on the road from Oct. 10-17. Sunday's loss was the Avalanche's seventh in 10 home games.
The Avalanche didn't help their cause by taking six minor penalties, even though the Sharks' only power-play goal was scored by Marleau into an empty net at the end.
"Too many penalties," Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "We can't afford them against a good team like that. We get some guys who play a lot in those situations get tired. That whole time you're killing a penalty, you're not trying to score goals. It's just not a good situation, especially against a team that we know has such a good power play. We talked about that before the game, tried to stay away from the box."
The Sharks seized control after Matt Duchene opened the scoring for the Avalanche at 7:25 of the first period by taking a cross-ice pass from Ryan Wilson and blasting the puck behind Greiss from the right circle.
Marleau scored the next two goals. He tied the game at 12:16, one second after a Sharks power play expired. Marleau got behind Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson and poked the puck into an open net after taking a pass from Vlasic.
Marleau and Vlasic combined to put the Sharks in front at 7:35 of the second period. Marleau skated into the slot and deflected Vlasic's shot by Giguere, who started ahead of Semyon Varlamov for the third consecutive game.
Joe Pavelski, who has made a habit of scoring goals at the Pepsi Center, gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion at 16:47, shortly after Greiss made a big save against Johnson. Joe Thornton moved behind the net, drew Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincey to him and fed Pavelski for a shot that beat Giguere to the short side.
"They're a very skilled team and if you make a mistake against them, it's probably going to be in the back of your net," Duchene said. "It's disappointing. Their goalie played very well for them, but we should have gotten more traffic in front as forwards. Our ‘D' were taking good shots, we just weren't getting there."