SAN JOSE -- Playing the NHL's top team brought out the best in the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday.
Joe Pavelski and Brenden Dillon scored early in the third period, and the Sharks defeated the Washington Capitals 5-2.
Pavelski broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal 49 seconds into the period, taking a pass from Joe Thornton and beating Capitals backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer with a backhand from left of the crease.
Dillon made it 4-2 at 2:51 with his second goal of the season. His shot from the point went into the upper left corner.
"I think that was a big one, a big one we wanted to get," Dillon said. "One that's a measuring stick."
Video: WSH@SJS: Marleau puts Sharks ahead, 2-1
Thornton scored in the first period, and Patrick Marleau had a shorthanded goal in the second for the Sharks (38-24-6), who swept the two-game season series with the Capitals. Brent Burns scored his 25th goal into an empty net with 43.2 seconds left, and Martin Jones made 23 saves for his 34th victory.
"I think obviously everybody knows the Washington Capitals are having a great year and are a great team," Marleau said. "You don't want to get embarrassed in those games, you want to show your best, and I think the boys did a good job tonight."
The Sharks are three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division and one point behind the second-place Anaheim Ducks.
T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams scored in the second period for Washington (49-14-5), which would have become the first NHL team to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a victory.
"They had all the energy and all the jump," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the Sharks. "Everyone we're playing is in playoff mode, fighting for position. They are marking us, using us as a yardstick because of our record. So every game is hard. You have to fight for inches."
Video: WSH@SJS: Thornton stuffs Dillon's shot home
Grubauer, making his 13th start of the season, gave up four goals on 27 shots.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead at 9:16 of a fast-paced, hard-hitting first period on Thornton's 16th goal. Dillon's shot from the point bounced out of Grubauer's glove, and Thornton scored from point-blank range.
The Capitals gave up the first goal for the 13th time in their past 15 games and have been outscored 8-0 in the first period of their past five games. They are 20-12-5 when giving up the first goal; the Sharks are 29-4-2 when scoring first.
"We had rough starts lately," Williams said. "It's five straight games that we haven't had a lead. It's really tough coming from behind every night. It seems we're used to it now. We need to stop thinking about it and get that first goal. Our starts have been a problem for us with that first-period goal differential. But we have time to clean it up.
"They just played better in the third period than we did. They didn't relent after that power play. That team over there seems to know how to hold a lead. Kudos to them. They played a better third period than us."
Video: WSH@SJS: Pavelski puts the Sharks up by 1
Washington started the second period with 1:46 left on a power play with Nick Spaling in the penalty box for high sticking Daniel Winnik. Burns joined Spaling in the box 20 seconds into the period after sending the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty that gave Washington a 5-on-3 advantage.
Oshie scored his 21st goal at 1:21 after taking a pass low in the left circle from Nicklas Backstrom.
The Capitals gave up a shorthanded goal at 5:14 of the second. Marleau and former Capitals forward Joel Ward went on a 2-on-0 rush after a giveaway by defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Marleau scored his 20th goal of the season and 476th of his NHL career, moving past Bernie Nicholls into sole possession of 51st place on the League's all-time goals list.
Washington pulled even on Williams' 20th goal at 10:12 of the second.
The Capitals had a chance to regain the lead late in the period when Jay Beagle went on a shorthanded breakaway and drew a penalty shot, but Jones stopped Beagle with a poke check.
"It's huge," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of the play of Jones. "We turned the puck over. It wasn't the way we wanted to play. To get out of that period even and regroup between the second and third was the key to the game."
Video: Strong teamwork lifts Sharks against Capitals