The Sharks took to the ice in Colorado looking to close their two-point gap on the final playoff position and that is exactly what they did, topping the Avalanche 2-1. In doing so, they provided Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson his 100th Sharks victory.
San Jose is now tied with Vancouver for the eighth spot, but still has two games in hand on the Canucks. Plus the Sharks are within one point of Edmonton and still have a game in hand on the Oilers.
Vesa Toskala was in net opposite Peter Budaj for the Avalanche.
Right off the faceoff, Joe Thornton
fed Jonathan Cheechoo driving the net for an opportunity. Budaj made the stop, but Nils Ekman was called for goaltender interference 11 seconds into the game. Toskala and company turned away the power play though.
Eight minutes into the game, San Jose had their first power play. Steve Bernier was set up on the doorstep by Kyle McLaren, who had dropped down behind the net, but his one-timer from in close was swallowed up by Budaj.
Milan Hejduk just missed on a shot from the slot when the power play concluded, but the Avs would score later on the shift. Andrew Burnette skated in on Toskala from the side and jammed the puck in short side.
With a minute and a half left in the first period, Thornton, Cheechoo and Nieminen put two hard shots on Budaj, but neither could get by the netminder and the deficit remained one.
Team Teal would trail 1-0 after 20 minutes, but they would have 1:50 of power play time to start the second thanks to a late penalty on Pierre Turgeon.
One minute into the middle stanza, Colorado was called for hauling Milan Michalek down and the Sharks had a five-on-three for 50 seconds. San Jose had several chances, but again could not score.
The Sharks would take to the power play again when Nieminen was taken down a breakaway. Michalek ripped off a shot on a two-on-one rush, but Budaj would stop the advantage just as he did on a fourth Sharks power play of the period.
Fortunately the Sharks, Colorado was not any more successful on their ensuing power play.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second, the Sharks finally solved Budaj. Joe Thornton
and Ekman skated in two-on-one and drew the Avalanche netminder over to the post. Ekman then fed Thornton who easily knocked in the shot to tie the contest.
San Jose would finish the second on the power play, and while they could not take the lead, they would have 1:40 of advantage time to start the third.
San Jose did not score on the advantage, and Toskala had to stop a shorthanded breakaway, but the Sharks would take a lead shortly after the power play.
And it came from a very unlikely source. Marcel Goc, who had not scored since November – a span of 50 games, buried the go-ahead tally. The play was set up when his linemates crashed the crease. Mark Smith fired on net and the rebound came out high to Goc and he waited for it to settle down and wristed it home.
Minutes later, San Jose nearly scored again. A Smith shot bounced high in the air and Budaj couldn’t find it as it landed in the crease. Both Thornton and Cheechoo were battling to knock it in, but could not get through the Avalanche defenders.
Marleau and Michalek had the Sharks next scoring chance when Marleau drew the defense with him on the rush and dropped it to Michalek who skated in on Budaj. As Budaj when to the ice, Michalek attempted to lift the puck upstairs, but just went wide.
As the contest entered its latter stages, Colorado was desperate to tie the game and they put the pressure to Toskala. Following a big save, the puck sat loose in the crease. Both Scott Hannan and Josh Gorges helped keep the Avs players from the puck and the lead stayed at one.
Colorado pulled their netminder in the final minute in an attempt to tie the contest, but it would not matter as Team Teal finished off the 2-1 victory and moved into a playoff position.
The Sharks will play in Los Angeles Thursday night in the back-to-back situation. The game will be aired on FSN+, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.