SAN JOSE – The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the NHL’s most dominant teams over the past few years, but there’s one thing they haven’t been able to do – win in San Jose.
The Sharks improved to 11-0-1 in the last 12 games against Pittsburgh at home with a 2-1 shootout win, with Tommy Wingels getting the game-deciding goal in the skills competition in an important victory for San Jose.
The Penguins have not won here since Oct. 22, 1997, in what was Patrick Marleau’s eighth career game.
San Jose (33-26-8, 74 points) moved back to within three points of Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division. The idle Flames have a game in hand.
The Sharks won just their second home game in the last 11 (2-7-2), and evened their record to 1-1 on a four-game homestand. Pittsburgh lost for just the second time in its last eight games (6-2-0).
The Sharks held a 1-0 lead into the third period, but Sidney Crosby tied it at 7:22 with his first career goal against the Sharks in seven games. He charged through the neutral zone and lifted a perfect backhand past Antti Niemi.
Pittsburgh buzzed for most of the remaining time in regulation, but couldn't put in another despite good zone time and traffic in and around the crease. Niemi was able to follow a low Evgeni Malkin backhander and freeze it before David Perron could find the loose disc with about 3:40 to go.
The Sharks were forced to kill off a Wingels delay of game penalty at 19:33 of the third period that carried into a wild overtime that featured a number of odd-man rushes going each direction. Derrick Pouliot hit the post with six seconds to go in the extra session.
Malker Karlsson and Kris Letang also scored in the shootout, before Wingels gave the Sharks a 2-1 edge in the eighth round. Niemi denied Steve Downie to end the game.
The Sharks are 3-5 in shootouts this season.
Despite getting outplayed and outshot in the first period, the Sharks escaped with a 1-0 lead on a late marker. Shortly after a cross-checking minor to Rob Scuderi expired, Ben Smith helped force Letang into a turnover behind the Pittsburgh net. Chris Tierney scooped up the loose puck and found Matt Nieto in front of the net, and Nieto deposited his seventh goal at 19:03.
The Sharks improved in the second period and had some good opportunities to increase their lead, but Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 15 shots he saw in the middle frame. Among them were a Tomas Hertl chance cutting to the net alone with 17:34 to go, and on the ensuing face-off, stoning John Scott on a nice setup by Tierney.
Niemi made his fair share of key stops though, too. In the first period, he denied former teammate Daniel Winnik on a partial breakaway about five minutes into the game, and later gobbled up a Crosby blast from the high slot after the Sharks turned it over in their own zone.
In the second, Niemi stopped Malkin flying up the wing, and Chris Kunitz was unable to put in the rebound midway through regulation.
The Sharks visit Pittsburgh on March 29 in the final game of a seven-game road trip. They have won five of the last six overall.
San Jose was 0-for-3 on the power play, including an opportunity midway through the third period with the game tied at 1-1.
The Sharks fought off three Penguins power plays, despite entering the game just 13 for their last 18 on the penalty kill.
Neither of the Sharks’ two penalties was very disciplined, as Joe Thornton was called for roughing Perron in the second period, and Joe Pavelski unnecessarily slashed Crosby later in the second.
Niemi started for the seventh time in the last eight games, and finished with 39 saves. He’s 4-1-1 in his career vs. the Penguins.
Fleury entered the game 10-3-2 against the Western Conference, including six of his league-leading nine shutouts. He stopped 29 of 30 Sharks shots.
Matt Irwin missed his second straight game with an upper body injury, but took part in the morning skate and hopes to be ready to return later this week.
Hertl played center for the first time since Feb. 13 at Arizona, skating between Wingels and Barclay Goodrow on the third line. Eventually, Tierney was shifted to the third line center with Hertl and Wingels as his wingers.
The Sharks are scheduled to practice for the next two days before hosting Nashville on Thursday. They have split the season series with the Predators, winning 2-0 on Dec. 13 at SAP Center, but dropping a 5-1 decision at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 17.
The homestand concludes with Chicago for a rare Saturday matinee. After that, 10 of the Sharks’ final 13 games are on the road.