WASHINGTON – The San Jose Sharks don’t have an explanation for their continued success against the Washington Capitals.
Coming off a shutout loss at home, they’re just happy to have the two points.
Patrick Marleau scored the only goal of the shootout, lifting the Sharks to a 2-1 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night, improving San Jose to 17-1 against Washington in the teams’ last 18 meetings.
“There’s no special ingredient,” Marleau said. “I think it’s just one of those things that’s been going our way for a while. They’re always tight games so it could easily go both ways.”
Sharks coach Todd McClellan doesn’t see a pattern either.
“I don’t have an explanation. It’s always been different circumstances,” he said after winning the teams’ first meeting since Feb. 13, 2012.
After losing 1-0 to Boston on Saturday, the Sharks rebounded to take the opener of a three-game road trip.
“It’s nice to start off the trip the right way,” McClellan said. “It was kind of a back and forth affair. They had some momentum (early) but we gained it back.”
Antti Niemi stopped Eric Fehr, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the shootout after making 35 saves in regulation and overtime. Marleau tallied after Joe Pavelski missed on San Jose’s first shot.
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 33rd goal at 12:44 of the second period after Tyler Kennedy had tallied for San Jose at 13:30 of the first.
Rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer, making his 12th start in 17 games, made 28 saves for Washington.
“I thought the whole team played very well,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “Hard fought game; great pace to it. Obviously, didn’t come through in the shootout, but it was a good hockey game.”
It was the Capitals’ second straight 2-1 shootout loss and they have lost six of their last eight.
“It was a good test for us,” Ovechkin said of the Sharks. “A good team. They’ve been together for a long time. I think we had good chances to win the game in regular time, in the third period, but we got the point.”
The Capitals got their only power play with 1:15 left in regulation when Marleau was called for hooking, but Niemi made a pair of saves on Ovechkin in the final minute and San Jose killed off the remainder of the penalty in overtime.
“Nemo was real good,” McLellan said. “The power play at the end, he had to make some big saves to give us a chance to get into overtime. He did that.”
San Jose led 1-0 after a first period in which Washington went over 10 minutes without a shot on goal during one stretch.
The Capitals actually had an early 7-1 advantage in shot, but Niemi made several good stops, including a glove save on wrister by Backstrom in the slot during a 3-on-2.
“We know we aren’t going to score on every shift out there, but we are doing the right thing and hopefully it will bounce with us next game,” Backstrom said. “It will come if we just keep working. I think it will come.”
San Jose broke on top at 13:30. Following a Washington turnover, Kennedy deflected a Jason Demers pass by Grubauer from high in the slot for his fourth goal of the season.
The Sharks came in having scored an NHL-best 51 first-period goals while allowing the fewest (22).
The Capitals controlled play for much of the second period and made it 1-1 at the 12:44 mark.
Ovechkin, the NHL goals leader, was held without a shot for the first 32 minutes but his first one found the net. He took a pass from Karl Alzer in the left circle and fired over Niemi’s shoulder.
“We tried to.we were aware of him, but they’ve got so many offensive weapons that if you overplay a certain individual somebody else will hurt you,” McLellan said. “He still got one. It goes to show what a great release he has, (he) scored from a pretty bad angle, but it was a helluva shot.”
Ovechkin has six points in his last six games.
With San Jose in the Washington zone late in the period, Brad Stuart poked the puck past Grubauer, but the replay showed time had expired.
NOTES: San Jose D Matt Irwin returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. . Washington’s Aaron Volpatti and Mike Brown of the Sharks bloodied each other and the ice during a short, fierce fight midway through the first period. . Washington’s last nine home games have been decided by one goal, with six going to overtime.