The Sharks’ road struggles continue, even against an opponent that they have dominated in recent years.
Colorado scored three times in the second period, survived a strong push from the Sharks after gaining a 4-0 lead, and held on for a 4-3 win at Pepsi Center on Saturday afternoon.
San Jose, which kicked off a three-game road trip, had been 11-0-4 in its last 15 games against Colorado. The loss moved them to 2-7-0 in their last nine games away from SAP Center, and 11-9-2 on the road this season.
Colorado blew the game open in the second, with three goals in a span of just 66 seconds.
Already leading 1-0, Dan Boyle’s attempted breakout pass to Matt Nieto got tangled up in Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s skates in front of the net. Former Sharks forward Jamie McGinn pounced on the loose disc and put it over Antti Niemi at 4:53 of the middle frame.
Niemi couldn’t be blamed for that one, and there was nothing he could do on Nathan MacKinnon’s first period marker that deflected in. But, the Sharks’ goalie allowed as bad a goal as he has all season as Colorado took a 3-0 lead. Erik Johnson flipped one towards the net from just inside the blue line, and it bounced between the circles and through Niemi less than a minute after McGinn’s goal.
Alex Stalock came in cold at that point, and for the second straight time, allowed a goal on his first shot in relief. MacKinnon cruised past Jason Demers and placed the puck off the inside of the far post for the rookie’s 12th goal.
San Jose responded later in the second to draw back to within two, just as it looked like the game might get out of hand. Joe Pavelski’s five-on-three goal at 8:35 was his eighth in the last 12 games and put the Sharks on the board, and Patrick Marleau’s one-time shot past Semyon Varlamov on a delayed penalty midway through the period made it a game again. The Sharks and Avalanche combined for five goals in five minutes and 18 seconds in the second period.
Couture made it 4-3 less than six minutes into the third when he found a loose puck and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games, a career-high. The Sharks nearly tied it on a late power play, but Varlamov denied Pavelski on a breakaway with 3:18 left, and turned away Brent Burns’ rebound try moments later.
MacKinnon, with two goals, moved past Tomas Hertl for the rookie scoring lead. The 18-year-old was drafted first overall by Colorado at the 2013 draft.
Marleau had a goal and two assists in the loss, and Joe Thornton recorded his 11th assist in the last seven games, to lead the league with 42.
The Sharks’ previous loss in regulation in the regular season to Colorado was on Oct. 1, 2009. The Sharks return to Denver on March 29.
The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Colorado was 1-for-4.
Pavelski’s goal was just the second five-on-three goal by the Sharks this season, and the first allowed by Colorado.
In a second period fight, Andrew Desjardins got the better of Colorado forward Max Talbot, landing several rights.
Niemi was pulled for the fourth time this season, and second time in the last three overall, including Dec. 29 in Anaheim.
Stalock played for the ninth time, and made six saves on seven shots, took the hard luck loss since he gave up the game-winning goal.
Varlamov made 30 saves.
Tyler Kennedy (flu) missed his second straight game, while Tommy Wingels (upper body) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday.
[RELATED: Wingels hits IR]
Minor league forward Eriah Hayes was recalled from Worcester on Saturday morning and took warmups, but did not play.
The Sharks visit Chicago Sunday in a nationally broadcast game on NBCSN (5:00 p.m. PST), and continue on to Nashville next Tuesday. They return home to host the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 9.