One night after a hard-hitting, emotional victory against their biggest rival to officially clinch a playoff spot, the Sharks opened up a home-and-home with the coldest team in the NHL on Tuesday in Vancouver.
Although their energy level was lower than usual for long portions of the game, Logan Couture’s first career hat trick pushed San Jose to a 4-1 win over the freefalling Canucks, who lost their ninth straight (0-8-1).
The Sharks drew to within three points of the first place Kings, who they defeated on Monday, and two points of the Ducks in the Pacific Division race. Los Angeles has one game in hand, while Anaheim has played two fewer.
The Sharks scored a goal in the first minute and last minute of the second period, taking a 2-1 lead into the dressing room.
Joe Pavelski’s 37th goal put the visitors ahead just 20 seconds into the middle frame. Goalie Jacob Markstrom got his blocker on a shot by Brent Burns but directed it right into Pavelski, who settled it down and swung it into the net.
A dangerous hit by Jake Virtanen shook up the Sharks’ Roman Polak, when he slammed into the defenseman on a late and borderline high hit. That earned the 19-year-old a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct at 2:01.
Instead of adding to their lead, though, the Sharks surrendered a shorthanded goal by Chris Higgins on a two-on-one rush at 6:21.
San Jose managed to get in front at 19:49, though, when Couture curled in a shot from close range for his 11th score, snapping a 10-game goal drought and coming just one night after Couture was robbed twice by the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.
[WATCH: Shot of the Game: Couture wins battle, flings in go-ahead goal]
Couture’s second came during a five-on-three at 14:01 of the third period, when he had time to line up a hard wrister through Markstrom’s five-hole.
Trying for the hat trick, Couture missed an empty net by inches with about half a minute left in the game, but on the ensuing faceoff he stayed out and managed to slide in a shot from center ice with 17 seconds to go.
The Sharks were on their heels early, getting outshot 13-7 in the opening frame, but James Reimer stopped all of Vancouver’s attempts. He snagged an Alex Burrows shot with 7:20 to go, quickly moving right to left.
In the third, Reimer managed to get his glove on a Sven Baertschi shot on a Vancouver power play less than two minutes into the period, preserving a 2-1 lead at the time. Late in regulation, he stuck his left pad out to deny a tap-in try by a hard-charging Yannick Weber.
San Jose has won eight straight in Vancouver. The Canucks have just eight goals during their nine-game losing streak.
The Sharks finished 1-for-4 on the power play, and are 10-for-41 over their last 13 games (24.3 percent). Higgins’ score was the seventh shorty allowed by San Jose this season.
Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play. San Jose is 15-for-17 on the PK over the last seven games.
Reimer made his sixth start with the Sharks, and improved to 4-2 with 23 saves. He is 15-14-7 on the season.
Markstrom, who has been alternating starts with Ryan Miller for the past month, allowed three goals on 30 shots.
The Sharks were without forward Joel Ward due to an undisclosed injury that is reportedly minor. Nick Spaling drew back into the lineup after not playing against the Kings.
The Sharks will close out the five-game season series with the Canucks on Thursday. They have won three of the first four.