EDMONTON — The San Jose Sharks may not have been all that sharp to start after playing the night before, but that changed once the puck dropped for the second period.
Trailing by a goal after 20 minutes of play, Joe Pavelski responded with three goals and an assist as the Sharks snapped a two-game losing skid with a 5-2 victory over the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
“I think after back-to-back nights and not having a morning skate and things like that, you’re probably going to be a little sluggish,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who had two assists on the night. “We continued to get better and better and it was a good way to end the night. As long as we’re moving around, moving the puck around, we’re going to be successful.”
Patrick Marleau and Marty Havlat also scored for the Sharks (47-18-9), who moved four points up on idle Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead and remained two points back of St. Louis for first in the Western Conference.
San Jose clinched a playoff spot in a 2-1 shootout loss to Calgary on Monday.
The Sharks power play came into the game ranked just 23rd in the league and had gone just three-for-35 in its last 10 games.
They were 3-for-3 against the Oilers, a major factor in the victory.
“The numbers aren’t that important, it’s when they come and how they come,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “We’ve had nights like this and it just hasn’t gone in. When you look at the power play standings and the numbers and that type of stuff, you panic over it outside the room, but not inside the room. We finally got a reward for playing basically the same way that we have.”
“I think we’ve been bad for a long time and in the last few games we’ve created a little bit of momentum on it,” said Pavelski, who had two of the power play goals for his club. “It hasn’t been one game and then take a couple of games off, we’ve been consistent on our opportunities and tonight it just finally went in for us.”
David Perron and Taylor Hall responded for the second-to-last place Oilers (25-39-9), who have lost three in a row, including a humbling 8-1 loss to the rival Calgary Flames on Sunday on the heels of a 3-1 defeat to the last-place Buffalo Sabres.
“We wanted to come back and play solid after our last couple games and get back to the stuff that we had been having some success with,” said Oilers captain Andrew Ference. “The power play chances they got, they jumped on and put us behind the eight ball. I think our five-on-five hockey was light years better than our last game. That wasn’t too tough to beat, though.”
Edmonton head coach Dallas Eakins said his team left far too many missed opportunities on the table.
“We have to find a way to bury the chances that we have, and there were some that were just laying there in front of their net,” he said. “You just have to find a way to put those in.”
Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens said the team remains very much a work in progress.
“We need to show to ourselves that we can play the right way,” he said. “I don’t know what it is that we refuse to buy in completely. It’s not one guy, a line, a defence pairing. It’s just kind of waves throughout the team. It’s not wanting to do what we have to do. We had some tough bounces tonight that probably added to the scoring differential. You can’t give a team like that the chances on the power play because they have skilled guys who will make you pay and they did tonight.”
The Oilers started the scoring just over four minutes into the first period as Perron danced around Shark Tyler Kennedy before picking a perfect spot on a shot past San Jose goalie Antti Niemi. It was Perron’s team-leading 26th goal of the season.
The first period shots narrowly favoured the Sharks, who had 11 on Edmonton starter Scrivens to the Oilers’ 10 in the opening period.
San Jose tied the game on the power play six-and-a-half-minutes into the second period. Scrivens made the initial stop on a shot from the slot by Marleau, but the rebound angled to Pavelski at the side of the net with a wide-open cage to put in his 35th of the year.
Another power-play goal midway through the second period gave San Jose a 2-1 lead, as Pavelski chopped a puck to Marleau at the top of the opposite circle and the Sharks assistant captain’s lighting-quick release led to a goal before Scrivens could get across.
It was Marleau’s 31st goal of the year.
The Sharks took a two-goal lead with 30 seconds left to play in the middle period as Edmonton defender Jeff Petry overskated a puck at his own blue-line, allowing Havlat to come in and send a wrist shot that beat Scrivens stick-side.
San Jose scored their third man-advantage goal of the game just over a minute into the third period. Pavelski got the puck with space in the front of the net, waited for defender Andrew Ference to go down, and then beat Scrivens over the blocker to make it 4-1.
Pavelski earned his third hat trick of the season with seven minutes left in the third as he took a shot that hit the stick of Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks and deflected into the Oilers net. Pavelski’s four-point night gave him 71 points on the season.
Edmonton made it look a little better with five minutes left to play as Hall picked up a rebound in front and hooked a diving backhand shot into the net for this 25th to make it 5-2.
The Oilers have been outscored 16-4 in their last three home games.
The Sharks return home to face the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The Oilers play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.