COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Sharks own a share of the Pacific Division lead for the first time in 97 days after a 4-3 shootout victory Thursday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Just don't expect coach Todd McLellan and his players to get too excited about overcoming the 13-point gap that separated San Jose and the Anaheim Ducks, who do have a game in hand, two months ago.
"I think we've got, what, 15 games left now?" McLellan said. "That's 30 points worth. That's a lot of hockey. Some satisfaction that we caught them? Yes, but lots of hockey left."
Thursday's victory featured two goals by Patrick Marleau -- including San Jose's first power play tally in seven games -- and one by Matt Nieto. There was a game-saving stop by goalie Alex Stalock in the final second of regulation and a third perfect performance by the backup netminder in the shootout that followed with Joe Pavelski scoring the decisive marker.
And it happened in a building where the Sharks have underperformed as of late, losing two games last season by a combined 10-2 margin.
"I think they learned from their mistakes of the past. That team plays hard," McLellan said. "If we weren't ready to go, we wouldn't have come close to getting the results we got tonight."
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring at 5:28 of the first period on Ryan Johansen's wrist shot from the slot. But the Sharks evened it up at 10:53 when Logan Couture made a quick centering pass from deep along the right sideboards, and Marleau deflected it past Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, last season's Vezina Trophy winner.
The only goal of the second period belonged to the Blue Jackets when Brandon Dubinsky scored eight seconds after leaving the penalty box in a sequence that featured a two-man advantage for the Sharks for 36 seconds.
Still, the Sharks were able to bounce back after being scored on while holding a man advantage for a second consecutive game.
"Between periods we talked about getting an opportunity to score on a second chance," McLellan said. "We didn't have any of them in the second, and sure enough the first shot, we get that opportunity. We also said our power play is going to get one more chance and it's time to go to work. And they did."
Nieto's goal came just 15 seconds into the third period after Bobrovsky gave up a soft rebound on a shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic. And the Sharks took their first lead of the game at 5:56 when Marleau scored his second of the night off a pass from Pavelski just 17 seconds after Dubinsky was penalized for slashing Justin Braun.
"It was on the rush, but we'll take it," Marleau said of his power play goal that came after the Sharks has been on an unproductive 2-for-56 skid.
Columbus made it a 3-3 game at 15:02 on a goal by James Wisniewski, whose rocket of a shot found the far corner despite the fact Stalock came far out of the net to challenge him.
A late tripping penalty by Brent Burns gave the Blue Jackets an opportunity to win in regulation, but Stalock made his best save of the night on defenseman Jack Johnson, who fired a carom off the boards on net in the game's final second with Stalock seemingly out of position.
After the overtime settled nothing, Stalock stopped shots by Mark Letistu, Johansen and Cam Atkinson, while Bobrovsky stopped Couture before Pavelski beat the Columbus goalie with a tight backhand shot.
Stalock now has won all three NHL shootouts he's been in, stopping all 10 attempts he's faced.
"One on one any time is fun," he said. "It's a contest, it's a competition and whether it's practice or a game it's fun."
As is a four-game win streak that gives the Sharks 93 points for their first piece of the Pacific lead since Dec. 6.
4 p.m. CSNCA