SAN JOSE — After erasing Anaheim’s 13-point lead in the standings the past two months, a one-goal deficit in the third period was only a minor speed bump for Brent Burns and the San Jose Sharks.
Burns scored the game-winning goal with 3:59 to play after assisting on the tying goal earlier in the third to help the Sharks take sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division for the first time in more than three months with a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
“He is a wrecking ball,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan. “He’s a one-man wrecking crew out there when he plays that way.”
Joe Thornton tied the game earlier in the third and got his second assist on the game-winner for the Sharks, who have won seven of eight to move two points ahead of Anaheim although the Ducks have a game in hand. The Sharks, who trailed by 13 points after games on Jan. 15, have not been alone in first since Dec. 6.
“This was something we’ve had our eye on for a while,” said Sharks forward Tommy Wingels. “Now that we’ve got a grasp of it, we can’t look back. We’ve got to keep the pedal down and try to pull away. We worked this hard to get here, we can’t give it up now.”
Patrick Marleau also scored and Antti Niemi made 26 saves for San Jose.
Teemu Selanne and Mathieu Perreault scored for the Ducks, who have lost six of their last eight. Frederik Andersen made 25 saves.
“It was a tough game but that’s what happens when two good teams go at it and fight tooth and nail,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “Everybody knew the importance of this game. Both teams looked focused and played to the end.”
Burns, who assisted on Thornton’s goal, was on the receiving end on the game-winner when he crashed the net and deflected Thornton’s centering pass from the boards past Andersen.
“He made a good play, shot to the middle there for me and I was lucky to get a stick on it and put it in,” Burns said.
Burns put together a personal highlight reel in the third period, getting the assist on Thornton’s goal on a 2-on-1 and then flattening Corey Perry with a hit with his backside that energized the Sharks and their loud crowd a few shifts before his game-winner.
“He’s just a beast out there,” Thornton said. “Nobody can handle his size and his speed. It just forces you to try to keep up with him because he’s going so fast. It’s great to watch.”
Selanne gave the Ducks the lead early in the third shortly after Anaheim killed off a San Jose power play. He started the play with an aggressive forecheck and Ryan Getzlaf took the puck away from Marty Havlat along the boards. Perry got the loose puck and his quick shot deflected off Selanne and into the net to make it 2-1.
But the lead was short-lived as the Thornton line got the best of their matchup against Getzlaf, Perry and Selanne.
“It was two breakdowns on us,” Perry said. “They are a team that capitalizes on those things.”
The game had a playoff-type atmosphere as the fans at the Shark Tank were loud and on edge from the start, breaking into derogatory chants about the Ducks right after the opening faceoff.
Neither team gave the opposition much space to operate in early in the game with only 10 combined shots in a tightly played first period that ended with the Sharks up 1-0.
The Sharks capitalized on their one power-play chance when Luca Sbisa was sent off for roughing Tommy Wingels. Sbisa got away with one questionable hit on Wingels before shoving Wingels to the ice a second time, leading to the penalty.
Thornton then sent a pass from behind the net to Marleau, who beat Andersen with a one-timer for his 29th goal. That was just the fifth power-play goal for San Jose in the past 21 games and the first point on the man advantage for Thornton in exactly two months.
Anaheim’s struggling power-play unit struck in the second, getting the team’s third man-advantage goal in the past 15 games. Selanne drew a pair of penalties from Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give the Ducks a two-man advantage for 6 seconds.
Perreault won a faceoff from Thornton and then got in position to one-time a rebound of Perry’s shot for his 15th goal just seconds after Couture left the penalty box.