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Sharks improve playoff standing with 5-1 victory over the Avalanche

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) is congratulated by left wing Patrick Marleau (12) and center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring past Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) is congratulated by left wing Patrick Marleau (12) and center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring past Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Joe Pavelski knows how fleeting first place can be in the Pacific Division.

Pavelski scored two goals in helping San Jose improve its playoff chances with a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

"We've seen how fast things can happen," Pavelski said. "We've been on both sides of it. Leading the division right now doesn't matter."

San Jose jumped into the Pacific Division lead with 88 points after both the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars lost earlier on Monday. The Stars dropped all the way into a tie with Phoenix with 87 points for seventh and eighth place in the Western Conference.

"The fact that we got the two points is the most significant thing, not where we are in the standings," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "You can not play a game and drop three spots."

Andrew Desjardins, Torrey Mitchell and Ryane Clowe also scored for the Sharks, who won their third straight.

"We haven't done anything yet," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We have to keep winning to make the playoffs."

Shane O'Brien scored for the Avalanche, who lost their third straight after going 7-1-1 in their previous nine games.

"No excuse, that's a tough loss to take," Avalanche forward Paul Stastny said. "Four games left, you have to win them all and hope other things work out our way. It's a guaranteed must win."

Antti Niemi stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win while Semyon Varlamov had 31 saves.

The Sharks scored three times in the second period to take the advantage.

Pavelski made it 1-0 at 3:50 of the period following a faceoff. Pavelski had an open net after knocking in a rebound.

Desjardins also got the bounce after a shot, getting a deflection off the bottom of Varlamov's pads to score at 9:19.

"When all four lines are scoring it gives you a lot of energy and momentum," Pavelski said. "When you have a three-goal lead halfway through the third period that puts a lot of pressure on the other team."

Ryan O'Reilly delivered a nice crossing pass to O'Brien, who knocked it in to bring Colorado within 2-1 at 11:47 of the second.

"The game got away from us in the second period," Colorado captain Milan Hejduk said. "Then they scored early in the third period and that killed us. Basically we have to go 4-0 now."

Mitchell fanned on his first attempt in front of the net, but Michal Handzus saved it behind the net and got it back to Mitchell, who scored to make it 3-1 at 15:44.

Pavelski added a power-play goal 35 seconds into the third period for his 29th of the season and Clowe scored an empty-net goal.

NOTES: Sharks D Dan Boyle had two assists and recorded his 500th career point. ... Sharks C Joe Thornton extended his point streak against the Avalanche to seven games. ... Pavelski's two goals gave him 300 points. ... O'Brien has three points in his past four games following a 12-game scoreless streak. ... Avalanche F Gabriel Landeskog had an assist and has five points in his past eight games. ... Colorado D Erik Johnson returned to the ice after missing three games with a back injury.

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