The Sharks used goals from two of their rookies, and got 33 saves from Antti Niemi in recording a key win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday night, 5-1.
Chris Tierney had one goal and one assist and Brent Burns and Logan Couture each had two helpers as San Jose split its brief two-game road trip, including a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Wednesday.
San Jose jumped back into second place in the Pacific Division with 63 points, ahead of idle Calgary, and owns a four-point lead on Vancouver. The Flames have one game in hand on the Sharks while the Canucks have three, as the Pacific Division rivals battle for playoff position.
Despite playing in the second of a back-to-back, the Sharks came out strong in the first period and outshot the Canucks 16-9. Matt Irwin’s goal at 17:43 was the only scoring in the frame, and he slapped a bad angle shot past Ryan Miller for his second goal in the last five games.
The lead increased to 3-0 in the second period. Dan Hamhuis was unable to clear the zone, and Burns picked off his attempt. Burns quickly floated the puck towards the net where Melker Karlsson got a piece of it high in the slot to beat Miller at 6:24.
San Jose got a fortunate bounce on a full two-minute two-man advantage late in the middle frame. After passing the puck all around the perimeter, Joe Pavelski’s feed towards the slot was tipped through Miller by Nick Bonino at 19:45. Pavelski was credited with his 28th goal, 15 of which have come on a man advantage.
Tierney’s first NHL goal early in the third period allowed the Sharks to cruise the rest of the way, as the rookie got his stick on another Burns saucer at 3:55. Tierney was recalled from Worcester on Wednesday morning.
Niemi nearly recorded his fifth shutout of the season. He stopped Bonino on a tip try five minutes into the second with the Sharks still holding on to a 1-0 lead, and in the third period made impressive saves on Radim Vrbata on a partial breakaway with 16:30 left, and later on Chris Higgins and Bonino again.
Vrbata’s rocket from the circle with 1:57 to go in the third was the only puck that got past the 31-year-old Sharks goalie.
Andrew Desjardins, scratched against the Flames, capped the scoring on a slick backhanded setup from Tierney at 19:55 of the third period.
A pair of Sharks had to go off for repairs mid-game after getting sticks up high. Barclay Goodrow was nicked by James Sheppard’s stick in the first period, while rookie Daniil Tarasov was caught up high by Hamhuis, who was not penalized for the second period carelessness.
Tarasov was making his NHL debut. He was recalled on Jan. 29, but was a healthy scratch for four straight games.
The Sharks improved to 5-3 in the second half of a back-to-back.
The Sharks return to Vancouver on March 3, and the teams close out the season series at SAP Center on March 7. The Canucks have won two of the first three, both in San Jose.
San Jose was 1-for-4 on the power play, after struggling in that department in Calgary on Wednesday.
Pavelski is back in sole possession of first place in the league with 15 power play goals, one more than the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin.
Vancouver was 0-for-3. The Sharks’ penalty kill is 25-for-28 in the last 11 games (89.2 percent).
Niemi improved to 7-3-0 career at Rogers Arena. He’s 22-11-6 on the season, after having the night off on Wednesday in Calgary.
Miller, who beat the Sharks twice this season at SAP Center, took the loss with five goals allowed on 38 shots.
Patrick Marleau played in his 1300th career NHL game, the youngest player to ever reach that mark.
John Scott was a scratch for the first time in six games, despite scoring his second goal on Wednesday night in Calgary. Tyler Kennedy also came out of the lineup in favor of Desjardins.
On defense, 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller skated for the first time since Dec. 11 in place of Scott Hannan.
The Sharks dressed six rookies for the game –- Karlsson, Mueller, Goodrow, Tarasov, Tierney and Matt Tennyson.
Vancouver remains without defensemen Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), who missed his fifth straight game.
The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Saturday with the Carolina Hurricanes. In the only previous meeting, Troy Grosenick bailed out his team with a 45-save shutout on Nov. 16 in a 2-0 Sharks win.
The Sharks will play 12 of their next 16 at home, and finish the season with 10 of 13 on the road.