SAN JOSE -- The Carolina Hurricanes became the latest sub-.500 team to feast on the San Jose Sharks.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:51 left in regulation, lifting Carolina to a 5-4 victory against San Jose at SAP Center on Saturday.
The Sharks (28-19-7) are a combined 4-6-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Carolina, all of which are below .500.
"We're an inconsistent team," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "That comes with youth, I think, although tonight our younger players played very well. We're an inconsistent team this year. We need to fix that going forward. We've got a stretch run here. We're going to need to win a lot of games to get into the playoffs. We've got some big games coming up."
Sekera ripped a shot from the right circle that bounced off goaltender Antti Niemi, then deflected off of defenseman Brenden Dillon's skate and into the net to give Carolina a 4-3 lead. Victor Rask added an empty-net goal with 1:10 remaining; it proved to be the game-winner when San Jose's Patrick Marleau scored with 54.3 seconds remaining.
Cam Ward made 23 saves, and Eric Staal, Andrej Nestrasil and Elias Lindholm also scored for the Hurricanes (19-26-7), who finished a four-game road trip with a 2-1-1 record.
"We were ready to go," Staal said. "We were aggressive in their end and our first period was solid. They pushed back but we were able to fend them off. I thought we stayed with it. We settled down and were able to bounce back. Obviously we got a great bounce on (Sekera's goal). We were jumping on pucks and giving ourselves a lot of chances."
Tomas Hertl scored two goals and Couture had one for San Jose.
The Hurricanes grabbed a 1-0 lead on Staal's goal in the first period, then led 3-1 after two periods as Nestrasil and Lindholm scored.
"I don't think we were engaged physically," Couture said of the Sharks' play in the first two periods. "We weren't strong on pucks. They outmuscled us a lot. Kind of changed that around in the third for a little bit for about 10 minutes and got us back in the game."
The Sharks needed just 3:49 to pull even in the third period on goals by Hertl and Couture.
Hertl scored his second of the game at 2:27, knocking a rebound out of midair and past Ward from in front of the net. Defenseman Scott Hannan ripped a shot from the blue line that bounced off Ward's left pad and into the air; Hertl was able to swat it into the net.
Hertl scored his ninth and 10th goals and had his first multiple-goal game of the season. They came while skating with rookie Chris Tierney and James Sheppard on a new-look third line.
"I was happy I scored because the second Carolina goal was my mistake," Hertl said. "Our start was very bad. We need now every point. I think Carolina was maybe the better team for two periods."
Couture tied the game with 16:11 remaining, spinning and firing a slap shot from the right circle over Ward's right shoulder for his 19th of the season. But Sekera put the Hurricanes ahead to stay with his second goal of the season.
"These guys were emotionally and mentally engaged in the game," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "We skated as well as we have at any time since the All-Star break, and that's a good sign we've got our legs back."
The Hurricanes outshot San Jose 14-9 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead at 19:02 when Staal scored his team-high 17th goal. Jiri Tlusty sent a wrist shot wide right of the net, but the puck hit the end boards and bounced straight back. Staal raced in and poked the puck past Niemi, inside the right post, from close range.
Tlusty, who moved from the third line to the first Saturday, and center Jordan Staal got the assists.
The Sharks played without stellar defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was a late scratch. Vlasic took part in the morning skate but missed the game with what coach Todd McLellan said was an upper-body injury. Early in the first period, the Sharks announced only that Vlasic was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.
McLellan said he doesn't know how long Vlasic will be sidelined.
Vlasic skates on the top pair with Brent Burns and leads the Sharks with plus-15 rating. Hannan replaced Vlasic and skated with Burns.
Carolina increased its lead to 2-0 at 5:33 of the second period on Nestrasil's second goal of the season. The Sharks had three men back against the rush, but Nestrasil knifed between Hertl and Sheppard, took a pass from in the slot from Alexander Semin and beat Niemi with a wrist shot.
Hertl answered with the Sharks' first goal at 8:26, cutting Carolina's lead to 2-1. Tierney, one of six rookies in the lineup for San Jose, won a battle for the puck with Liles behind Carolina's net and sent the puck from his knees in front to Hertl, who beat Ward with a wrist shot for his first goal since Jan. 13 against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Hurricanes quickly regained their two-goal lead when Lindholm scored on the power play at 10:13. With Matt Nieto in the penalty box for hooking Sekera, Tlusty provided a screen and Lindholm snapped a shot through defenseman Mirco Mueller's legs and past Niemi from above the right circle.
"We were on our heels a little bit to start with and that shouldn't happen," McLellan said. "We should be a little bit better. But I didn't think our first period cost us, I thought it was our second period.
"The first goal (in the second period) was one we can't allow and the second goal was one we can't allow. They get the power-play goal which we didn't get tonight."