Power-play goals by Thornton and Marleau help Sharks beat Avalanche 4-3

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau scored power-play goals 17 seconds apart in the third period and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 40 shots during the Sharks’ 4-3 win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. “We sleepwalked through the second period,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “Fortunately for us, we woke up in time to score two power plays at the end.”

Thornton tied the game with his fifth goal of the season and then assisted on Marleau’s winner. Not bad considering Thornton has strep throat.

“The strep slowed me down,” he said. “Not bad enough to keep me out of the game. I wasn’t de-energized.”

The teams combined for five goals in an 8:17 span of the third period before the Avalanche dropped their fourth straight.

“If we play like we did tonight, we will find a way to win games,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “The recipe for success is playing like that.”

Joe Sakic scored his eighth goal of the season to put Colorado up 3-2 with 8:32 remaining, but the Avalanche were called for two penalties to give San Jose a 5-on-3 power play.

“That was our opportunity, we grasped it and took advantage of it,” said Marleau, who scored his 12th goal of the season.

But the win may have come at a cost. Jonathan Cheechoo was helped off the ice with a left leg injury after Colorado defenceman Karlis Skrastins fell on top of him in the goal crease. Cheechoo didn’t return to the game, and Wilson wouldn’t give an indication how long he’d be out.

Antti Laaksonen wished his first goal of the season would’ve been the winner. Laaksonen scored early in the third period to give Colorado a 2-1 lead, but that didn’t last long.

Steve Bernier tied it with a backhander minutes later to make up for an earlier mistake. He tried to play the puck off the boards and back to himself to get around Mark Rycroft, but Rycroft stole the pass and fed Laaksonen for the goal.

“We didn’t win the game and that is what we are here for,” Laaksonen said. “I think we deserved to win, we worked pretty hard for it, but it didn’t go our way.”

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Nabokov returned to net after tweaking his neck against Phoenix last Saturday. However, this type of game wasn’t exactly therapeutic for a stiff neck. The Avs, who average 34.5 shots a game, were bouncing shots off Nabokov all evening.

“Shots were coming from everywhere,” he said. “I didn’t know where they were coming from. I made the saves I had to make.”

Jose Theodore finished with 22 saves. He also had his first assist of the season.

Yet, all he could think about was the costly 5-on-3.

“I always say that if you kill a 5-on-3, a lot of times you are going to win the game,” Theodore said. “That’s always the turning point.”

An errant pass by Sakic early in the second period led to a short-handed goal by Curtis Brown. Sakic attempted a pass along the blue line, but it was intercepted by Brown, who skated along the left boards and beat Theodore with a shot for his third goal of the season.

“We got the short-handed goal by Brown to keep us alive,” Marleau said.

Sakic made up for the mistake in the third period with his goal that gave him 1,507 career points, the fifth-highest total for one franchise in NHL history. He was tied with Ray Bourque – a former teammate – who scored 1,506 points with Boston.

“We are turning it over too much,” Sakic said. “We are trying to make that extra pass rather than just getting on them.”

The Sharks were just thankful they came back in time.

“We won the (third) period, but it wasn’t decisive, that’s for sure,” Marleau said. “They were taking it to us.”

Notes: Colorado’s Paul Stastny and San Jose’s Matt Carle were teammates at the University of Denver and guided the Pioneers to the 2005 NCAA championship. … Sharks C Mark Smith was placed on the injured list Wednesday. D Rob Davison was activated from the list and took Smith’s place on the roster. … Colorado’s Brett McLean scored his fourth goal of the season 3:48 into the game.