SAN JOSE -– A pair of goals by Vancouver’s Radim Vrbata, a key miss on a wide-open net by Patrick Marleau, and an unfortunate early whistle helped put another dent in the Sharks’ playoff hopes on Saturday night at SAP Center in a 3-2 Canucks win.
Vrbata got the game-winner in the third period on the power play with Brent Burns in the penalty box for high-sticking. The Canucks’ leading goal scorer got open in front of the net, took pass from Daniel Sedin off of a faceoff win, and patiently waited for Antti Niemi to commit low before flipping it over the goalie at 5:21.
The Sharks, who had snapped an eight-game losing streak at home on Monday, fell to 1-7-2 in their last 10 games at SAP Center/Levi’s Stadium. Vancouver earned its 20th road win (20-12-3).
The Canucks opened up a six-point lead on San Jose in the Pacific Division, with a game in hand. The Sharks remain four points out of a playoff spot.
The Sharks thought they had taken the lead a little more than a minute into the third, but an apparent Tommy Wingels marker was waved off. An early whistle blew the play dead just before Wingels poked the loose disc over the line.
Shortly after Vrbata’s go-ahead goal, Tomas Hertl clanked the post with a shot that was about to trickle in off of the back of Lack’s pad, but Vrbata alertly tucked it back into his goaltender just before it slid in.
The Sharks opened the scoring for the fifth straight game. Joe Thornton bodied an Eddie Lack rim to gain possession, and found Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The defenseman’s shot got through, and the rebound bounced to Melker Karlsson, who flicked in his second goal in as many games at 7:58.
Thornton scored on the power play at 11:51 to give San Jose a 2-0 edge, taking advantage of a wide-open net on a Joe Pavelski rebound.
Vancouver got one back late in the frame, though, as Vrbata streaked towards the net past Burns and slipped it in off of Antti Niemi at :21.
The Canucks got the only goal of the second period. Bo Horvat pounced on a puck at the defensive blue line, racing past Burns who couldn’t keep it in. Horvat sped towards the crease and chipped it over Niemi at 16:24.
Prior to the goal, the Sharks had a golden opportunity to increase their lead to 3-1, but Marleau missed a slam-dunk into a wide open net on a pass through the slot by Scott Hannan on a two-on-one with 10:34 remaining.
Marleau was bumped to the Sharks’ third line in place of Wingels to start the second, possibly due to a neutral zone turnover that led to Vrbata’s marker. He returned to the Logan Couture line to start the third.
The division rivalry had some chippy moments. A little more than two minutes into the first period, Jannik Hansen shoved Brenden Dillon into the corner boards. Dillon got up and cross-checked Derek Dorsett in the back, leading to a 10-man scrum and a fight between Dillon and Hansen, and a Vancouver power play that it did not capitalize on.
In the second, Mirco Mueller took exception to a shove from behind by Brandon McMillan, grabbing the forward from behind and earning a roughing penalty.
The road team won all five games in the season series, including three wins at SAP Center for Vancouver, which has now won eight of its last 11 here.
Each team struck for one power play goal. The Sharks were 1-for-2, while Vancouver finished 1-for-5.
San Jose is 5-for-12 on the power play over its last five games, but has now allowed at least one power play goal against in 10 of its last 13 games (26-for-37, 70.2 percent).
Niemi made his sixth start in the last seven games, and finished with 31 saves. He played four of the five games against Vancouver in the season series, going 2-2-0.
After coming on in relief of Jacob Markstrom on Tuesday, Lack was making his first career start against the Sharks, as Ryan Miller remains on the shelf with a knee injury. He stopped 38 shots while improving to 9-8-3 on the season.
Matt Irwin was scratched due to an upper body injury after leaving practice early on Friday. Hannan, scratched for the previous two games, slotted in with Burns at Irwin’s vacated position.
Taylor Fedun was recalled from Worcester but did not play.
Vancouver’s Chris Higgins was a late scratch.
Pavelski increased his point streak to five games, with one goal and five assists over that span.
The Sharks remain home to host Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Monday for the first of two games against Pittsburgh. Nashville visits on Thursday, and a Saturday matinee against Chicago closes out the four-game homestand.
After that, 10 of the final 13 games are on the road.