CORRECTS MONTH TO FEBRUARY, NOT MARCH - Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov eyes the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks finally grinded out a win again in the best way they know how: at home and in a shootout against the Colorado Avalanche.
Patrick Marleau scored in the fourth round of the shootout, Antti Niemi stopped three shots in the final session and the Sharks showed signs of busting out of a monthlong slump with a 3-2 victory over the Avalanche on Tuesday night.
"Big win. Real big win. It's so hard to win right now," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Right now, we'll take the win any way we can get it."
The Sharks controlled the puck for most of the game but still had to sweat out a shootout.
Michal Handzus made the first shot and two Sharks missed before Marleau shook Semyon Varlamov, sneaking the puck between the goaltender's legs for the winning score. Niemi turned aside 25 of 27 shots before the shootout and blocked John Mitchell's shot to seal the victory.
Logan Couture and TJ Galiardi also scored goals for the Sharks, who snapped a two-game losing streak. San Jose has won eight straight against the Avalanche at home—including two shootouts—since Colorado won Game 1 of their first-round playoff series in 2010.
"It's no secret we've been struggling lately, and we're going to take any win we can," Galiardi said. "We just got to string them together now."
San Jose had been 1-6-3 in its last 10 games since setting a franchise record by winning its first seven of the season. The Sharks' 41 shots on goal were the most since a 4-0 win over the Avalanche exactly a month earlier.
Colorado still found a way to push San Jose to the brink.
Chuck Kobasew scored in the first period and Mark Olver netted the tying goal for the Avalanche with 3:16 remaining in regulation. Colorado ended its three-game trip 0-1-2.
"I think we stuck with it after falling behind so quickly," Avalanche forward P.A. Parenteau said. "It wasn't the greatest game nor was it the worst."
San Jose overcame the loss of its key contributors.
Colorado struggled to do the same.
Avalanche centre Matt Duchene, leading the team with 11 assists and 17 points, sat out with a lower-body injury. Sharks forward Ryane Clowe served the second and final game of his suspension by the NHL for instigating a fight late in Friday's 2-1 loss at Chicago, and San Jose placed defenceman Brent Burns on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Just 25 seconds into the game, Joe Thornton stole the puck along the back boards and quickly passed to Couture collapsing on goal. Couture flicked the puck past Varlamov, falling to the ice as his seventh goal of the season—and first in nine games—sailed into the back of the net.
It was the fastest Sharks score this season, topping Thornton's goal 43 seconds into a 4-1 win over Vancouver on Jan. 27. Protecting the lead only lasted a little longer.
San Jose couldn't clear the puck, and Kobasew corralled the rebound for the tying score with about 8 minutes remaining in the first period. It was Kobasew's second goal of the season.
Another fast start following the break put the Sharks in control again.
James Sheppard flicked a blind, backhand pass to Galiardi just outside the far-post crease. Galiardi pushed the puck into the net for his first goal of the season, giving San Jose a 2-1 lead just 2:55 into the second period.
"I just kind of spun around and threw it toward the net. Luckily, Gal kind of just took a perfect spot," Sheppard said.
Michal Handuz missed a chance for a short-handed goal that would've put the game away when a friendly bounce off the side boards gave him a breakaway, which Varlamov blocked with his body as a defender swooped in from behind. Colorado capitalized just after its power play ended.
Jan Hejda's slap shot deflected off the back board and into a crowd near the crease. Olver flipped the puck just over Niemi's leg pads for the tying score.
"I like the fact we show some resiliency after falling behind twice," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We were able to tie the game somewhat late and that was a big point for us."
A lack of offence has been a big part of San Jose's slide and remains an issue.
The Sharks finished 0 for 5 on the power play, including a chance between the third period and overtime when former Sharks forward Jamie McGinn was called for a high stick. In the last 10 games, they are 2 for 46 on the power play.
"We're getting lots of shots. We're getting retrievals. We feel like we're wearing down, but eventually the puck will go in," Thornton said. "As long as we keep doing little things, keep shooting, keep retrieving pucks, we'll be good."
NOTES: Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog returned to the arena one month to the day he got a concussion on a huge hit from Sharks defenceman Brad Stuart. Landeskog had been out of the lineup until the previous two games. ... The Sharks recalled D Matt Irwin from Worcester of the American Hockey League. ... Colorado returns home to face Calgary on Thursday, while San Jose hosts Detroit on Thursday.
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