SAN JOSE - Consecutive penalties to Brad Stuart and Logan Couture late in the third period led to Tobais Enstrom’s power play goal, helping Winnipeg to a 4-3 defeat of the Sharks at SAP Center on Thursday night.
Stuart was forced to take down Michael Frolik after an ill-advised pinch into the offensive zone with 5:53 left in regulation. The Sharks had all but 11 seconds to kill of that holding minor before Logan Couture’s delay of game penalty.
Although San Jose was able to get through the brief two-man advantage for Winnipeg unharmed, thanks to a key faceoff win by Joe Pavelski, Enstrom deposited a pass from Blake Wheeler at 16:24 of the third for the game-winner.
The Sharks remain two points ahead of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, but the Ducks, idle on Thursday, now have three games in hand.
San Jose opened the scoring with Dan Boyle’s first goal in 30 games. James Sheppard was given all kinds of room high in the offensive zone, and directed it to Marty Havlat in front of the net. Havlat angled it to Boyle, whose redirection made it 1-0 at 1:57.
Winnipeg tied it on Andrew Ladd’s goal just 36 seconds later, when a pinch by Stuart led to an odd-man rush the other way. Antti Niemi couldn’t control Ladd’s original attempt, but the Jets forward stayed with the play and lifted it home.
San Jose replied to make it 2-1 later in the first, though, on the power play. Pavelski found Brent Burns moving towards the net, and Burns’ backhander kissed the net after finding room above Al Montoya’s shoulder.
A horrifying goal allowed by Niemi early in the second allowed the Jets to tie it at 2-2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic kept Wheeler to the outside, but Wheeler’s soft attempt from an impossible angle snuck through Niemi’s wickets at 1:55. Winnipeg took its first lead on a power play at 9:32, when Wheeler’s feed through the slot resulted in Dustin Byfuglien’s 20th goal.
The Sharks responded with a power play goal of their own, though, to make it 3-3. Couture, who was questionable to play in the game after missing Tuesday’s game in Calgary, had a Sheppard shot deflected off of his upper body at 11:23.
The craziest sequence of the game came early in the second period, with San Jose trying to kill a minor to Andrew Desjardins while it was still a 2-2 game. Patrick Marleau’s aggressive play kept the puck in Winnipeg’s defensive zone to start the kill, and later, Montoya raced towards a loose puck high in the zone. Tommy Wingels manged to knock it away, and Couture had what looked to be an open look at the net with Montoya out of position, but the goaltender recovered in time to get his left pad on Couture’s shot from inside the blue line.
Sheppard and Havlat each finished with two assists, as did the Jets’ Frolik.
The Sharks finished 1-1-1 against the Jets in their three-game season series.
The Sharks finished 2-for-4 on the power play, and are now 8-for-26 in their last nine games (30.7 percent). They have scored multiple power play goals in consecutive games, after going 33 straight without more than one.
Winnipeg was 2-for-5.
Niemi started for the seventh time in the last eight games, and stopped 27 shots.
Montoya was making his sixth straight start, as Ondrej Pavalec remained out with a lower body injury. He recorded the win with 27 saves on 30 Sharks shots.
Joe Thornton became the 100th NHL player to reach 1200 games played. He tied former Shark Owen Nolan for 99th all-time in games played.
Couture returned from a one-and-a-half game absence with a foot injury, suffered from blocking a shot against Calgary on Monday.
Freddie Hamilton was recalled from Worcester earlier in the day, but was a healthy scratch. Winnipeg’s Devin Setoguchi was also a healthy scratch.
The Sharks have seven games remaining. They visit Colorado on Saturday afternoon, and will get a two-day break between that one and a home game against Edmonton next Tuesday, April 1.