ANAHEIM – After the All-Star break, checking the standings becomes a much more frequent exercise across the NHL.
Those standings got a little tighter on Tuesday at Honda Center, as the Ducks beat the Sharks, 3-2, in the first game after the break for both clubs.
Surging Anaheim, which won its fourth in a row and fifth in its last six, trails the second place Sharks by three points with a game in hand.
San Jose lost for the first time in regulation since Jan. 7, a span of 11 games (8-1-2).
The Ducks opened up a 3-1 second period lead they would not surrender.
Hampus Lindholm’s shorthanded goal broke a 1-1 tie. Brent Burns and Joe Thornton couldn’t connect on a pass in the defensive zone, leading to Lindholm beating Martin Jones high at 4:19 of the middle frame.
Later in the frame, Ryan Garbutt found a juicy rebound off of Jones’ chest originating from the stick of Chris Stewart, and deposited his first goal with Anaheim at 12:07. Garbutt was acquired from Chicago just before the All-Star break.
San Jose got one back before the end of the period. Joonas Donskoi managed to get the puck to slot area, and it ended up on the stick of Tommy Wingels, who swiped it through at 13:12.
The Sharks managed to keep it just a one-goal deficit despite a lengthy penalty kill that featured 55 seconds of two-man advantage time for Anaheim after penalty to Marc-Edouard Vlasic (high-sticking) and Wingels, for plowing over Frederik Andersen.
The Sharks’ best chance to tie it in the third came on their opening shift of the third period, but Andersen got his right pad on a Tomas Hertl attempt from close range after it appeared Hertl had some open net.
San Jose went on a late power play when Cam Fowler was called for hooking at 17:53, but couldn’t tie the game despite pulling Jones for an extra attacker.
The Sharks fell to 5-11-1 in their last 17 games in Anaheim. The Ducks won three of four in the season series, which has now concluded.
Anaheim got on the board first, when Rickard Rakell buzzed in a shot top shelf from the circle at 16:09. That was the only goal until Dainius Zubrus’ high tip of a Burns shot at 2:43 of the second, knotting the score.
Anaheim’s top-ranked penalty killers denied the Sharks on three chances. Overall, the Ducks are 49-for-51 on the PK since Dec. 27.
San Jose also had a strong showing while shorthanded, denying the Ducks on four chances including a total of 1:17 while down two men.
Lindholm’s goal was the fourth shorthanded goal that San Jose has allowed this season.
Jones was making his fifth straight start. He took his first regulation loss in his last nine starts (7-1-1), allowing three goals on 25 shots.
Andersen got the call for Anaheim, as John Gibson was given a night off to rest after attending the All-Star Game in Nashville. He got just his second win against the Sharks in eight career decisions (2-6-0) with 30 saves.
The Ducks welcomed Fowler back into the lineup, after the defenseman missed the last 13 games with a knee injury.
Thornton’s 10-game point streak came to an end, as did Joe Pavelski’s three-game goal-scoring streak.
St. Louis is the next stop for the Sharks on their road trip, the first of three straight games in Central Division buildings. The Blues are one of just two teams that San Jose hasn’t played this season. Vancouver is the other.