LOS ANGELES - The San Jose Sharks have become a measuring stick for their opponents, and they bring out the best in them.
Such was the case with the Los Angeles Kings, who extended the NHL's best team to a shootout before losing to them for the third time in three tries this season. Ryane Clowe scored in the first period on San Jose's only power play of the game and got the deciding goal in the shootout, leading the Sharks to a 3-2 victory on Monday night.
"We like to think that with the good start we had, a lot teams have us circled on the schedule," Clowe said. "They want to play their best and they are motivated to play us. The Kings played hard. Their not giving up a lot of shots for a reason. They play a good game in their own end."
Patrick Marleau tied the score with a short-handed goal in the second period. Brian Boucher made 26 saves in his 10th start this season and first since beating Washington on Nov. 22.
"We played the premiere team in the league right now and played pretty well against them," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "We had opportunities. We had the lead. We had power-play opportunities. We just wish we would have generated a little more on it. I think it's a good learning situation any time you can play against the premiere teams in the league like this."
The Sharks improved to 25-3-2 with their 12th victory in 13 games and 19th in the past 22. The closest team in the Western Conference - the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings - fell eight points back after their 3-2 loss to Colorado.
"It's a nice cushion for us, but we want to keep playing well and get points every night," Marleau said. "We've won games all different ways - blowouts, come-from-behind, shootouts - we're won some crazy games and some good character-building games."
Only twice since the NHL expanded to the west coast in 1967-68 has a U.S. team west of Dallas finished with the league's best record. Colorado accomplished the feat with 107 points in 1996-97, and did it again with 118 points in 2000-01.
"I've never been a part of something like this," said Marleau, the Sharks' captain. "We push each other in this room. The guys hold each other accountable. I mean, we're a fun group - but at the same time, we demand a lot from each other. And I think that's why we've had the start that we've had."
The Sharks came in averaging 35.8 shots on net, second-best in the league and 9.7 more than their opponents. But they were outshot 28-25 by the Kings. San Jose is 9-0-0 when taking fewer shots than the other team.
"We outshot them and had a lot of chances. It shows we can play with the top team in the league," Patrick O'Sullivan said. "They're a good team, obviously. Just look at their record. It's pretty impressive. But we showed that we are capable of playing with them throughout the game. It's going to give us some confidence."
Matt Greene and Teddy Purcell scored their first goals of the season for the Kings less than 5 minutes apart during the first period.
Erik Ersberg started in goal for the Kings after posting back-to-back wins over St. Louis and Minnesota, but was forced out of the game at 6:54 of the second period because of a groin pull after stopping 10 of 11 shots.
Jason LaBarbera inherited a 2-1 lead from Ersberg and Marleau got the game-tying goal at 15:43 of the period, just 10 seconds after teammate Dan Boyle was sent off for slashing Dustin Brown.
Marleau stole the puck from defenceman Drew Doughty at the Kings' blue-line, and a delayed penalty was signalled against the rookie before Marleau beat LaBarbera to the stick side on a breakaway for San Jose's seventh short-handed goal.
Greene opened the scoring at 4:55 of the first, playing the puck off the right boards and taking a one-timer from the point that changed direction off the skate of forward Lukas Kaspar and beat Boucher to the glove side. The Kings made it 2-0 at 9:52 after a sloppy turnover by defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who gave up the puck to Purcell in the left corner and watched him skate in front to beat Boucher between the pads.
"They took it to us right from the start," Marleau said. "It's one of those situations where some nights you have to weather the storm a little bit, get your feet under you and hopefully not get in too big of a hole so that you can chip away and stay in the game. That's exactly what happened tonight."
Purcell's goal came nine seconds after San Jose killed a hooking penalty against former Kings defenceman Rob Blake. The Sharks got on the board at 13:12 while Kings defenceman Kyle Quincey was off for hooking Kaspar.
Boyle's one-timer from 45 feet was wide of the left post, but Clowe played the carom off the end boards and scored his 13th goal from the edge of the crease.
Kaspar played in his second game after getting recalled from Worcester of the AHL on Saturday. He is filling in for Jeremy Roenick, who underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday on his shoulder and is expected to miss at least three weeks.
Notes: Marleau, whose 254 career goals are a franchise record, has 16 in 30 games after getting just 19 in 78 games last season. ... The Kings lost both ends of a home-and-home set with the Sharks that opened their season.