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Sharks take early lead, need shootout to top Capitals

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- The San Jose Sharks' season-opening shutout streak was broken, but their undefeated record remained intact.

Up 3-0 less than 10 minutes into the game, the Sharks withstood a rally from the Washington Capitals to get a 6-5 shootout victory Tuesday at Verizon Center.

"Right now we're a team that's winning that needs a lot of work," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I guess that's a good thing when you're not playing as well as you'd like in a lot of areas and you're still winning games. We'll take it."

Matt Irwin (two goals) and John Scott, each a healthy scratch in the Sharks' first two games, gave San Jose its early three-goal lead. Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels also scored, with Pavelski getting the only goal in the shootout.

San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, skated 18:20. Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the Sharks, who entered the game as one of six teams since 1943-44 to have back-to-back shutouts to start the season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Marcus Johansson, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer scored for Washington, which trailed 5-3 late in the third period. Justin Peters stopped 14 shots in relief of Braden Holtby, who coach Barry Trotz pulled after he allowed three goals on seven shots.

"We knew they were going to do it and I just think we let them," Johansson said of the Sharks' first-period dominance. "They came out hard and we didn't push back and I think that's what got them those early goals. It's tough to come back from three goals behind, but I think we did a great job of doing that. That start cost us the two points. In the long run, that can cost us a lot, but I think we've got to bring the last two periods of the game with us and keep working off that because we played great and worked really hard and that's what we need."

In planning for the Sharks, the Capitals frequently spoke of San Jose's distinctive fast starts. But that preparation did not prevent Washington from falling behind quickly.

Irwin's first goal was the result of a clean faceoff win by Joe Thornton. Irwin wound up as the puck glided toward him and shot a one-timer past Holtby at 1:23. The defenseman then pushed the lead to 2-0 three minutes later. With seconds remaining on a power play he drew, Irwin swooped in to collect Wingels' rebound in the crease at 4:36.

Brooks Orpik's errant breakout pass allowed Scott to rush into the offensive zone and snap a shot past Holtby. It was the 32-year-old veteran's third goal in 237 NHL games. Last season, Irwin and Scott combined to score three goals in 118 games.

"Obviously, we had the start we were looking for," Irwin said. "We talked about it in the first intermission that we didn't want to let them back in the game, and sure enough we didn't accomplish what we wanted to do and they came back and changed the momentum."

A much more energetic start to the second period for Washington led to an early goal from Johansson on the power play at 2:51, which snapped San Jose's shutout streak at 142:51.

San Jose restored its three-goal lead less than three minutes later. Peters stopped Pavelski's initial curl-and-drag attempt on the rush, but the rebound struck Eric Fehr and trickled over the goal line at 5:27.

The Capitals cut that lead to 4-3 with two goals in 34 seconds. Green's long-range wrist shot fluttered past Niemi at 6:35, and Ovechkin followed with a wrist shot from the high slot at 7:09 for his third goal of the season.

Wingels scored 1:37 into the third period, following his own shot and beating Peters on a rebound in tight after the goaltender bobbled the puck. Ovechkin's second goal of the game, on the power play from his trademark spot in the left faceoff circle, made it 5-4 with 5:51 remaining.

"I thought [Ovechkin] was the best player on the ice," Trotz said. "A couple goals, he's blocking shots, he's running over people, he was a beast out there. When your best player is your best player and he's pushing the dial and sort of dragging everyone around with him, that's what you want."

Brouwer tied it with 4:35 left on a hard drive to the net, shedding Irwin on the way and roofing a shot over Niemi.

A nearly whistle-free overtime gave way to the shootout, where Pavelski fired the game-winning goal into the top corner over Peters' glove hand.

"[Washington] is a dangerous team," Pavelski said. "We knew they had a lot of firepower, a good power play, and their shooters put it in some pretty good spots at times. You want to give them a little credit, but we believe with the group we have in here we can control games depending on how we play. We didn't do a good enough job but we got the points."

Washington's three-game homestand continues Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the same day San Jose will play the second game of its five-game Eastern Conference road trip against the New York Islanders in a matchup of unbeaten teams.

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