SAN JOSE -– Playing consecutive home games for the first time in a month, the Sharks looked energized, refreshed and determined in a 5-2 win over the NHL’s best team on Saturday at SAP Center.
Joe Pavelski and Brenden Dillon tallied third-period markers to help the Sharks down the Washington Capitals, who claim the best record in the league by a wide margin. Two of Washington’s 14 regulation losses have come to the Sharks.
The game was knotted at 2-2 entering the third period when Pavelski gave the Sharks their third advantage of the night. On a power play, the captain snuck a backhander through a hole in Philipp Grubauer at the 49-second mark to give San Jose the lead back.
Just two minutes later, Brenden Dillon fluttered a wrist shot through traffic that kissed the twine at 2:51 for his first goal since Nov. 22.
Pavelski’s goal, his team-leading 32nd, was also his 10th game-winner, tops in the NHL.
The Sharks are 20-1-2 in their last 23 meetings with Washington, although the Capitals had won their previous two games in San Jose.
Brent Burns’ empty-net goal capped the scoring.
The teams traded four goals through the first two periods.
Joe Thornton opened the scoring at 9:16 of the first, getting position in front of the net on Matt Niskanen and flipping in a Dillon rebound. That was the only goal of the opening frame.
The Sharks got into some penalty trouble later, and after Burns fired the puck into the stands just 20 seconds into the second period, the Capitals had a dangerous two-man advantage on the power-play.
T.J. Oshie tied the game at 1:21, banging in a one-timer on a pass through the slot from Nicklas Backstrom.
A Thornton boarding minor at 3:39 gave Washington another advantage, but it was San Jose that struck for a goal shorthanded. Patrick Marleau raced ahead of Dmitry Orlov, pushed it to Joel Ward, and Ward gave it back to Marleau to tap it home at 5:14.
Marleau’s 20th goal of the year eclipsed his total of 19 last season, while Ward’s assist was his first point in nine games.
Again, though, Washington responded. After a neutral zone turnover by Thornton, Burns and Paul Martin couldn’t prevent Evgeny Kuznetsov’s slick pass to the front of the net where Justin Williams deflected it in at 10:12.
The Capitals pressed hard after the goal, but Martin Jones made some of his best saves of the night on Jay Beagle. He denied the winger on a partial breakaway with four minutes to go, and then poke-checked his penalty shot with just 12 ticks left in the second with San Jose on a power play.
San Jose beat the Capitals at Verizon Center on Oct. 13, 5-0.
San Jose finished 1-for-2 on the power play, while scoring its sixth shorthanded goal. The Sharks are 4-for-22 with a man advantage over the last 10 games.
Washington, which entered the night with the league’s best power play, was 1-for-3.
Jones, who shut out the Capitals on Oct. 13 in his only other career appearance against them, made 23 saves. He’s 34-18-4 on the season.
Grubauer allowed four goals on 27 shots to suffer his sixth defeat (8-6-1). Braden Holtby, the NHL wins leader with a 41-8-4 record, had the night off.
The Sharks were facing Alex Ovechkin for the first time this season, after the Washington captain overslept the morning skate in the first meeting and was subsequently scratched for the game on Oct. 13.
Roman Polak recorded his first point with the Sharks, assisting on Dillon’s score.
Micheal Haley was recalled on Saturday morning but did not play.
The Boston Bruins will be the third-straight Eastern Conference team to visit San Jose when they make their only appearance on Tuesday night. The Sharks claimed a 5-4 win at TD Garden on Nov. 17.