San Jose Sharks' Justin Braun (61) works against Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
SAN JOSE, Calif. - As soon as the San Jose Sharks started taking the body, they took over the game.
Joe Thornton scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:39 left in regulation to help the Sharks overcome a two-goal deficit by wearing down the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 5-3 victory Thursday night.
"We got physical and that just totally turned the game," Thornton said. "Everybody got into it after the big hits. Throwing the body around just changed everything."
Justin Braun started the comeback with a goal late in the second and Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns scored tying goals earlier in the third for the Sharks, who have 10 wins and one tie in their last 11 home games against Pittsburgh.
Burns added an empty-net goal and Antti Niemi made 19 saves for San Jose.
"It was hard, it was dirty, it was everything," said Sharks defenceman Jason Demers, who had an assist on Marleau's short-handed goal and one of the big hits in the second period. "I think both teams played great games and we came out on top. It was a nice shot by Jumbo there for the win. It was just one of those games they are just great to play. You love playing those games and I'm sure it was great to watch, too."
Olli Maatta scored two goals and Chris Kunitz also scored for the Penguins, who last won at the Shark Tank on Oct. 22, 1997. Star Sidney Crosby remained without a goal in six career games against San Jose and was on the ice for all five Sharks goals, leading to a career-worst minus-5 rating.
"We did a good job in the first half of the game and then made it easy for them in the second half of the game," Crosby said. "Once they tied it at 3-3 they really came at us hard."
Jeff Zatkoff made 42 saves in his first appearance since beating Los Angeles on Jan. 30.
But Zatkoff would probably like another chance to stop the goal scored by Thornton. On what looked like an innocent play, Thornton flipped a shot from the blue line that fooled Zatkoff and went in over his shoulder.
"It was just rolling and rolling and rolling," Thornton said. "They say it's never a bad thing to take a shot and I think I just got lucky. That's all that was."
It gave the Sharks just their third win all season when trailing after two periods and their first comeback from a two-goal deficit after one period since beating Pittsburgh here in Nov. 3, 2011.
San Jose outshot Pittsburgh 34-12 over the final two periods.
"They thrive on momentum in this arena," Penguins forward Craig Adams said. "We took our foot off the gas and they took it over. We couldn't get it back."
The goal by Thornton capped a wild third period that featured the Sharks tying the game with a short-handed goal, falling back behind and then tying the game again all in a span of 1:34.
The scoring spree started after Matt Nieto was given a double-minor for high-sticking Simon Despres. The Sharks killed off the first penalty and then tied the game at 2 on a spectacular goal from Marleau, who took a pass from Demers, faked out Evgeni Malkin and then beat Zatkoff with a backhand.
"It's a nice feeling to score goals like that," Marleau said.
The Penguins went back ahead 21 seconds later with their second power-play goal of the game when Brandon Sutter set up Maatta for his first-career two-goal game.
That lead was also short-lived when Burns took a pass in the slot from Joe Pavelski 1:13 later and beat Zatkoff with his second goal in as many games after a 19-game scoring drought.
Trailing 2-0, the Sharks took over control of the play in the final half of the second period thanks to some hard hits dished out by Demers, Burns and Raffi Torres.
That energy translated into a goal when Tommy Wingels prevented Zatkoff from freezing a puck to set up Braun's point shot through a screen by Adam Burish. The goal ended an 18-game drought by San Jose's defencemen since Dan Boyle scored against Detroit on Jan. 9.
The game got off to a fast-paced start with no stoppage in the first 5-plus minutes. The Sharks threatened on a power-play midway through the period before the Penguins got goals from Maatta and Kunitz in the final 5 minutes to take the 2-0 lead. That was San Jose's biggest deficit after the first period all season.
NOTES: Fs Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc made their debuts for Pittsburgh after being acquired before the trade deadline Wednesday. Goc had an assist on the first goal. ... The only other teams Crosby has failed to score against are St. Louis (seven games) and Chicago (three games). ... Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds, who trains at the Sharks' practice facility, dropped the ceremonial first puck.