PITTSBURGH -- The Sharks built their six-game winning streak over two weeks. Thursday night, it crumbled in seven minutes.

That's how long it took the Pittsburgh Penguins to score four goals early in the second period and turn a highly anticipated battle of division leaders into a rout as they cruised to a 5-1 victory.

It was only San Jose's fourth regulation loss of the season, but it was another in which the Sharks saw themselves playing a significant role in their own demise.

"You don't want to turn it over against these guys," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "They've got a lot of speed coming through the neutral zone, and their transition game is really, really good. Just little mistakes there, but it happens."

The game was Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby's 500th in the NHL, and he registered three assists as the Penguins got two goals from Chris Kunitz and one each from Pascal Dupuis, Jayson Megna and Kris Letang. Tomas Hertl scored his team-leading 14th goal for the Sharks' lone score.

It had looked as if San Jose might catch a break when the Penguins announced that their other star center, Evgeni Malkin, would miss the game with a lower body injury.

But Sharks coach Todd McLellan took little comfort in that, suggesting before the game that "one man does not make a team, and that is a team over there."

Neither side scored in the first period, but McLellan said he could see the signs of what was to come next.

"They fought for ice and they fought for loose pucks a lot stronger than we did," he said. "The disease in our game was there in the first. It just hurt us in the second."

It took only 27 seconds into the middle period before the Pittsburgh onslaught began.

It started with Dupuis tipping a shot by defenseman Brooks Orpik into the San Jose net. Just over two minutes later, Pittsburgh capitalized on a neutral-zone misplay by Jason Demers, and Megna made it 2-0.

At 5:27, Kunitz scored the first of his two goals off the rebound of a shot by Crosby, and on his next shift, Kunitz scored on a power play with John McCarthy in the penalty box to up the lead to 4-0 at 7:30.

The Sharks got one of those goals back at 9:27 when Hertl ended Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid.

Shortly after that, the Sharks were applying pressure on the power play when a shot by Joe Pavelski slid just wide of the far post rather than into an empty net. Pavelski's body language showed his disappointment.

After that, McLellan dropped him to the fourth line and moved Andrew Desjardins up to the third.

"I saw some frustrated players," the coach said. "And with the amount of hockey that we've played and that we have to play on this road trip, I didn't think frustration was a real good emotion to have with two periods left."

McLellan yanked Antti Niemi in favor of backup netminder Alex Stalock in the third period, but he didn't fare much better on the first shot he faced, as Letang scored to make it 5-1.

San Jose did outshoot the Penguins 45-30, but neither McLellan nor his players saw that as significant.

"Let's not get tricked by that number," McLellan said. "Their 28 or 30 or whatever they had, they made them count. The shot totals at the end of the night that counted were the five and the one, and we weren't even close."

The Sharks flew to Raleigh, N.C., where they face the Hurricanes on Friday night.

  • The game was forward Tyler Kennedy's first in Pittsburgh since being acquired by San Jose on June 30. The crowd cheered when his image appeared on the video board, and Kennedy acknowledged that with a wave.

  • Pittsburgh's victory was its first in regulation over San Jose since Nov. 23, 2002. The Sharks had gone 8-0-1 since then.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him at twitter.com/@PollakOnSharks.

    FRIDAY'S GAME
    Sharks (19-4-5) at Carolina (12-12-5),
    4 p.m. CSNCA