VANCOUVER -- With his team playing on consecutive nights and for the fourth time in six days, San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan shook up his lineup by adding some youth.
It paid off in a dominant win against the Vancouver Canucks.
Matt Irwin, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney, and Andrew Desjardins all scored goals to lead the Sharks to a 5-1 win at Rogers Arena om Thursday.
Tierney and Karlsson were two of the six rookies in the San Jose lineup, and those half-dozen first-year players combined for two goals, five points and a much-needed boost one night after a 3-1 road loss against the Calgary Flames.
"We were looking to get fresh legs in," McLellan said. "Four games in six nights with some travel, we needed some energy and we needed some enthusiasm. A lot of times the veterans pull the young kid along. Tonight it was the young players pulling the veterans along."
Antti Niemi made 33 saves and defenseman Brent Burns set up two deflection goals to help the Sharks (28-18-7) bounce back from the loss in Calgary to move back into second place in the Pacific Division. San Jose is two points ahead of the Flames and four ahead of the Canucks (28-19-3), who have lost four of six. Despite the loss, the Canucks still hold the second Western Conference wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Guys have stepped in all year and done a great job for us," Irwin said of the rookies. "We needed to roll all four lines, we needed all four lines to contribute and I'm pretty sure all four lines got a goal."
Despite playing the night before, the Sharks dominated early against the Canucks. San Jose outshot Vancouver 11-2 in the game's six minutes, forcing goaltender Ryan Miller to make a handful of tough saves and leaving coach Willie Desjardins wondering what happened.
"That was a big game for us. There was no reason for us to be on our heels," Desjardins said. "San Jose does have a team that a lot of times they'll put you on your heels early because they're fast and they're a good team. But they played last night and we knew what to expect. They shouldn't have been able to do that. They did."
Radim Vrbata scored his 20th goal of the season with 1:57 left to end Niemi's shutout bid, and Miller made 33 saves for the Canucks, who were missing top-pair defensemen Christopher Tanev for the first time this season because of an undisclosed injury. But Desjardins wasn't interested in excuses.
"For whatever reason, we didn't get our best game out there," he said. You can't do that. Night after night you've got to find your best game."
The Canucks seemed to get a brief burst of life after holding San Jose without a shot on a power play six minutes in, but Irwin opened the scoring for the Sharks on a screened shot with 2:17 left in the first period.
Irwin's shot from the boards near the top of the left circle went through Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler in the slot and beat Miller, who had dropped, high over the left shoulder on the far side. It was the fourth goal of the season for the Sharks defenseman, who grew up on nearby Vancouver Island and had family at the game.
"It was about 25 friends and family over, so to get on the board was nice and to get the win was even better," Irwin said. "It's cliché but if you just fire it … [I] can't say I was aiming, [I was] just trying to get it on net."
Burns did the same thing to set up the ninth goal in 24 games for Karlsson, a rookie playing on the Sharks' top line. The 24-year-old deflected Burns' high point shot down and past a stunned Miller, who was standing up to catch the puck, at 6:24 of the second period.
Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows finally put a puck past Niemi with 6:46 left in the second period, but the goal was quickly waved off because Burrows knocked the puck into the net with his glove.
The Sharks then made it 3-0 on a late 5-on-3.
With Dan Hamhuis already headed off for tripping, Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Sharks a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
"Not much," Sedin said when asked what he said to the official. "I was little surprised actually. It was a tough call. Surprising."
After the Sharks passed the puck around the Canucks' end for most of the power play, Pavelski got credit for his 28th goal of the season when his pass deflected off Vancouver forward Nick Bonino and through Miller's legs with 14.2 seconds remaining in the period.
"It was a little lucky but it sets up from the amount of shots we hand, from the looks," Pavelski said. "We were able to break them down and things opened up. We moved them around good."
The infusion of fresh legs in the lineup made that easier.
"When we came in and saw the lineup it looked pretty young," Pavelski said. "But a lot of guys, whether call-ups or first games, have done a good job and they were a big part of this win."
Niemi didn't have to make a lot of hard stops, but sprawled out to get his right pad on Vrbata's breakaway deke 3:31 into the third.
"The (5-on-3 goal) was a key moment and the breakaway stop early in the third was a key as well," McLellan said.
Tierney deflected another waist-high point shot by Burns past Miller 24 seconds after the save on Vrbata to make it 4-0. It was the first goal for Tierney, a 20-year-old center playing his 16th NHL game after being called up just in time to play in Calgary.
" It was pretty tiring yesterday but when you get called up to play in the NHL, it doesn't matter, you aren't tired when you are out there," Tierney said. "Your adrenaline is pumping."
That exactly what the Sharks were counting on.