DALLAS -– The Sharks can feel at least a little bit better about themselves headed into their most anticipated game of the season.
Andrew Desjardins scored twice and San Jose won for just the second time in its last seven, beating the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday night, 5-2.
Up next for the Sharks is Stadium Series game with the Kings on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium, as the Pacific Division rivals battle for playoff position in front of approximately 70,000 fans. The Sharks (30-22-8, 68 points) jumped two points ahead of Los Angeles for the second and final Wild Card spot, but the Kings have three games in hand.
The Sharks never trailed, opening up the scoring for the second straight game. Joe Pavelski found Logan Couture in the neutral zone with a crafty backhanded chip, and Couture carried the puck towards the net. He found a charging Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 3:24, for Vlasic’s seventh of the season.
The first period also featured a fight between Brent Burns and Antonie Roussel at 11:12, perhaps in response to Roussel’s sucker punch of Justin Braun on Nov. 8. For Burns, it was just his second fight since joining the Sharks.
San Jose increased its lead to 3-0 in the second period thanks to a pair of goals from an unlikely source.
Desjardins, who entered with just three goals on the season, gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead at 3:38. Tomas Hertl flipped a shot towards the net from a bad angle, and Desjardins got a piece of it to deflect it into the top near corner over Kari Lehtonen’s shoulder.
The 28-year-old got another with a wrist shot through a screen at 6:14, giving the Sharks a three-goal cushion and chasing Lehtonen.
Dallas got one back on the power play later in the second, though. Jamie Benn powered towards the net and both he and Trevor Daley whacked away in the crease, with Daley getting credit for it at the eight-minute mark.
The Stars made things interesting late. Erik Cole was left alone in front of the net moments after a bad Joe Thornton turnover, pulling the Stars to within one goal with 2:16 to go.
A long-range Patrick Marleau empty netter with 1:05 left, though, and anther by Tommy Wingels 11 seconds later put away any thoughts of a Stars comeback.
Antti Niemi played well after getting the night off on Tuesday in Nashville with 37 saves, including 14 in the third period.
San Jose improved 13-3-3 in its last 19 meetings with the Stars, including a 5-3 win earlier this season.
The Sharks began the night out of a playoff spot. It was the first time since the 2005-06 season they’ve been on the outside looking in after 59 games.
The game was the first against their former teams for Sharks defensemen Brenden Dillon and the Stars’ Jason Demers. The two were swapped for one another on Nov. 21.
The Stars remain without leading scorer Tyler Seguin for the next several weeks with a knee injury.
The Sharks and Stars conclude their season series on April 6 in Dallas’ only visit to SAP Center.
San Jose won pulled through despite losing the special teams battle. Dallas was 1-for-3, while the Sharks failed to convert on two Dallas minor penalties.
The Sharks have allowed a power play goal against in seven of their last nine games.
Niemi, picked up his 24th win, allowing fewer than three goals for just the second time in his last six starts. He’s 10-4-5 against the Stars in his career.
Lentonen was pulled after allowing three goals on 17 shots, falling to 5-8-3 career vs. San Jose. Jhonas Enroth did not allow a goal in relief.
Desjardins recorded his second career multi-goal game and first since Oct. 8, 2011.
The Sharks rearranged all four of their forward lines for the game. The top line consisted of Couture centering Pavelski and Wingels, while Thornton was between Marleau and Melker Karlsson to round out the top six.
Barclay Goodrow, John Scott and Mirco Mueller were the healthy scratches.
Jason Spezza increased his scoring streak to seven games with an assist on Daley’s goal.
The Sharks will practice at Levi’s Stadium on Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., while the Kings will take the ice at 6:30 p.m. Los Angeles, which has won its last six in a row to storm back into postseason contention, has not played since Wednesday’s 4-1 win in Colorado.
San Jose will be participating in its first-ever outdoor game, while the Kings will play in their second after facing the Ducks last season at Dodger Stadium.
The Sharks are 2-1 against Los Angeles this season, including a 4-2 victory at SAP Center in the final game before the All-Star break on Jan. 21. They meet in the final game of the regular season at Staples Center on April 11.
The Sharks will then be off until Thursday when they host Detroit. Eight of their next nine games overall are at home.