DENVER -- John Mitchell’s power play goal in the second period was the difference as Colorado beat the Sharks at Pepsi Center on Saturday afternoon, 3-2.
The Sharks, now just 1-2-2 in their last five, remain one point ahead of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, but the Ducks have three games in hand. They play Saturday night in Vancouver with a chance to regain the division lead outight.
The Sharks and Avs traded early goals before Colorado struck twice in succession to take a 3-1 lead.
Cody McLeod’s shorthanded goal midway through the first restored the Avs’ lead. Dan Boyle tried gloving a floating puck at his own blue line, but couldn’t get a grasp on it. McLeod gobbled it up and raced in alone on Alex Stalock, finding the Sharks’ goalie’s five-hole at 10:34.
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The game remained 2-1 into the second period, when Colorado capitalized on a power play. Jamie McGinn misfired on a shot from the slot, but the rebound off the end boards went to Mitchell’s tape, and the defenseman potted his 10th goal.
San Jose drew back to within 3-2 before the intermission, though, when James Sheppard’s dish through the slot found Boyle for a goal about two minutes after Mitchell’s marker. Boyle has scored one goal in each of his last two games, after going 29 straight without one.
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Semyon Varlamov finished with 47 saves, although Colorado played a solid defensive game in keeping the Sharks to the outside and getting in front of several attempts to the net. The Avalanche finished with 25 blocked shots.
The Sharks had a pair of power plays in the third with a chance to tie. Joe Pavelski was stopped in front of the net a couple times midway through the final frame, and San Jose didn’t generate much when Nick Holden went off at 14:21 for holding Sheppard.
Paul Stastny scored just a minute and a half into the first period to give Colorado the early lead, but Pavelski answered with a power play goal at 3:07. Pavelski’s 14 power play goals places him second in the league.
The Sharks and Avalanche conclude their four-game season series on April 11 at SAP Center, the penultimate game in the regular season for both clubs. Colorado has won two of the first three, including both at home.
Colorado clinched a playoff spot with the win.
The Sharks and Avs each finished 1-for-4 on the power play. San Jose is 6-for-11 with a man advantage in the last three games.
Colorado forward Ryan O’Reilly was called for his first penalty of the season, in his 72nd game, at 8:49 of the third period for playing the puck with a broken stick.
Varlamov recorded his 37th win, passing Antti Niemi for the league lead.
Stalock made 19 saves on 22 shots.
Jason Demers was a late scratch due to illness. Demers made the trip, but was too sick to play. Scott Hannan took his place on the blue line, while Justin Braun was reunited with Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the top defense pair.
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Colorado lost star forward Matt Duchene early with a knee injury, when he collided with McGinn in the first minute of the first period.
Sheppard went hard into the corner boards with some assistance from McGinn in the second period, and took some time to get up with what looked like a potential left leg injury. He returned later in the middle frame, though.
The Sharks open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with Edmonton. They host the Kings on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. Of the six games remaining on their schedule, four are at home.