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DENVER – For a long while, it looked like Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was going to steal two points for his club, something that happened so many times during Colorado’s impressive 2013-14 campaign.
When Gabriel Landeskog managed to sneak a shot through Antti Niemi’s five-hole just about three minutes into the final frame from a bad angle, giving the Avalanche a 2-1 lead, it felt like that might be all Colorado would need.
But Logan Couture’s marker less than two minutes later, and some incredible saves by Niemi, including some glove hand larceny on Ryan O’Reilly’s hard snapper from the slot, allowed the Sharks to pull out the two points that they deserved, 3-2 in a shootout.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Niemi holds strong, Sharks prevail in SO]
San Jose outshot the Avalanche for the game, 51-33, in winning its second straight to improve to 6-4-1. Varlamov had 49 saves, but allowed Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau to beat him in the tiebreaker.
“We kept coming at ‘em and the puck kept hitting that shield in front of the net,” said Pavelski, who finished with 10 shots on goal, but had nothing to show for it until he kicked off the shootout with a goal.
“I don’t know if the word is frustration, but you want to score, and a lot of nights a lot of those goals go in,” Pavelski continued. “You get mad when you get that many chances, that many looks and get kept off the scoresheet, especially at crucial times of the game where you could bust the lead out.”
The Sharks were particularly dominant in the first two periods, but play evened out in the third period and overtime, as the Avalanche’s cadre of skilled young forwards finally had some room to work in the offensive zone and create chances.
Colorado had a prime opportunity to end it in overtime, too, but the Sharks killed off one minute and five seconds of power play time with Marleau in the box for slashing.
“There were lapses, but we’re starting to put it together a little bit longer night in and night out,” Todd McLellan said. “I thought we were aggressive. We were on our toes. Got backed off a little bit when we didn’t play the way we needed to.”
Brent Burns continued to be in the middle of things all over the ice. His aggressive power move to the crease in the first period resulted in him eventually tipping in a Mirco Mueller shot to open the scoring, but later he muffed a floating puck at the defensive blue line with his glove hand, and Alex Tanguay raced in to deposit the shorthanded equalizer in the second period.
Burns also allowed Landeskog to get off the shot that gave the Avalanche the lead early in the third period, but it was a puck that should have been swallowed up by Niemi.
Defensively, Burns is improving, according to McLellan. Offensively, he has probably been the Sharks’ biggest weapon through 11 games, having found the scoresheet in every tilt except a 4-0 shutout loss in New York on Oct. 19.
His 12 points (4g, 8a) leads all NHL defensemen.
“Offensively, he’s just been an absolute force for us,” McLellan said. “He’s involved in so much.”
“I feel good with my game,” Burns said.
The entire team should feel good, after it was able to build off of an impressive, physical and emotional victory in Anaheim on Sunday. There were no signs of a let down.
“It could go either way,” Pavelski said, when asked if there was any carryover from the Ducks game. “Guys did a great job of setting the intensity early and coming at them, working back, playing d-zone. All the stuff we need to do, it definitely led to a good night for us.”