ANAHEIM, Calif. – After their second game together, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau again raised the question why the San Jose Sharks’ top three offensive threats weren’t on the same line for the first 23 contests.
Heatley scored his NHL-leading 18th goal and set up Thornton’s go-ahead tally in the third period, leading the Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
On Friday, Heatley recorded his second hat trick of the season and Thornton tied his franchise record with four assists in a 6-3 win over Philadelphia.
“It’s good that a lot of different guys played with each other early on, and I think you’re going to see as the year goes on that there’s going to be different combinations,” Thornton said. “Right now, it’s a pretty dynamic line with Patty and myself and Dany.
“Good players make each other better, and that’s what’s going on right now. The scary part is that I think we can get better.”
Ryane Clowe also scored for the Sharks, and Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves to send Anaheim to its 11th loss in 15 games.
The Sharks and Ducks are at opposite ends of the Western Conference standings, separated by 19 points. Last season, San Jose had the most points in the NHL but lost to the eighth-seeded Ducks in the first round of the playoffs.
“When you come into this building, it doesn’t matter what the standings are. The game is always played hard,” Nabokov said. “All the games are really intense because everybody prepares for us and everybody wants to beat us.”
Ducks defenceman James Wisniewski, who sat out the final 2½ periods of Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win against Tampa Bay because of a bruised right foot, scored his first of the season during a power play.
Corey Perry earned an assist on Wisniewski’s goal to extend his career-best point streak to 14 games, the NHL’s longest active run. Ryan Whitney added a power-play goal, and Jonas Hiller made 33 saves.
The Ducks had a chance to break the 2-2 tie while they were short-handed. Todd Marchant took off on a breakaway after former Ducks defenceman Kent Huskins fell down trying to keep the puck in at the right point, and Nabokov came out to attempt a poke-check. He missed, but Marchant’s backhander went just wide of the right post.
“I would like to think I forced him wide, but I misplayed it a little,” Nabokov said. “I think he kind of expected me to come out and challenge him. For a second, I thought he put his head down, and that’s why I went out. Once I did that, there was no sense to back off.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get lucky.”
The Sharks took the lead six seconds after Teemu Selanne’s penalty expired. Thornton got a pass from Heatley and beat Hiller from the middle of the left circle with 11:11 remaining for his seventh goal.
“Joe said before the game that he was going to shoot the puck. He scored his last time in this barn, so I had to give him the puck,” Heatley said.
Hiller was disconsolate after Anaheim’s fifth one-goal loss of the season.
“I saw Heatley and was ready for the shot, but he passed it to the side, and Thornton one-timed it. It was a bang-bang play,” he said. “I thought I played it quite well and was in pretty good position. I just missed it by half an inch. That kind of goal hurts right now.”
Heatley put the Sharks ahead 2-1 at 10:54 of the second on a power play, converting a rebound for his seventh goal in six games.
“That line’s been playing well. But in order for those guys to play together, we have to trust everybody else,” Nabokov said. “If the other three lines are not playing well, I’m sure those guys are going to be split up.”
The Ducks tied it with 14 seconds left in the second period, cashing in with nine seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 advantage. Whitney scored on a one-timer from the left circle.
“A lot of teams get up for us. We’ve got a real good team, and teams seem to play their best against us,” Thornton said. “Those guys played a heck of a game tonight, and I expect them to get things rolling.”
Wisniewski gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead when his shot from just inside the blue-line slid under Nabokov’s outstretched right leg 1:20 into the second.
Clowe tied it at 8:08 of the second.
NOTES: Anaheim LW Saku Koivu returned after missing five games due to a groin strain. D Steve Eminger came back after sitting out one game because of back spasms. … Heatley and Marleau have combined for 32 goals through 25 games, making them the NHL’s best one-two punch. … Twenty of San Jose’s 25 power play goals have come on the road. … The Sharks have won four straight regular-season games in Anaheim. They have won at least one game at Anaheim in all 16 seasons the Ducks have been in the NHL.