Sakic and Brett Clark each had two goals and an assist, and the Avalanche snapped out of a slump with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Clark had his first career two-goal game and Brett McLean also scored for the formerly last-place Avalanche, who had lost three of four before handing the Sharks their first home loss in five weeks.
Jose Theodore, who played his first NHL game in San Jose, made 28 saves in his 150th career victory.
After a disheartening 3-0 home loss to Columbus on Tuesday, the Avalanche desperately needed a reassuring win. They got it at the Shark Tank, thanks to steady offence and a handful of key saves by Theodore, who stopped a penalty shot by Mike Grier.
“We needed this one,” Sakic said. “We didn’t play very well the other night, and I thought right from the get-go, guys were hungry, were strong on the puck. You really have to be against that team, because they’ve got a great hockey club over there. We seemed to get the jump on them.”
Vesa Toskala made 20 saves for San Jose, but lost for just the third time in 16 games this season when he couldn’t stop McLean’s go-ahead goal and Clark’s second score 5:04 apart late in the second period.
Colorado killed a lengthy two-man disadvantage in the third before Sakic, who has 65 points in 47 career games against the Sharks, added his 11th goal of the season.
The five goals were the most allowed this season by Toskala, who entered the game with a 1.98 goals-against average. Colorado coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t ask much more from his beleaguered club, which outworked San Jose in a 4-3 loss in the teams’ first meeting in Denver last month.
“We got through some trouble and came out of it with a great effort,” Quenneville said. “We were real disappointed with the last game … so this is a big win, huge game for us.”
Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo scored for the Sharks, who weren’t sharp in their return from a strong four-game road trip. San Jose, which played just 11 home games in the season’s first nine weeks, began a stretch with 12 of 15 games at the Shark Tank.
“I’ve seen this before,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “Your first game back after a fairly successful road trip, and your guys aren’t ready to play. We were just completely out of sync. That was obvious.”
Cheechoo, who has just three goals in his last 14 games while recovering from a leg injury, got an easy power-play goal in the first period off a pass from Thornton, who assisted on 38 of Cheechoo’s NHL-leading 56 goals last season.
Sakic banged home a long rebound left by the Sharks’ shoddy defence early in the second period to snap a personal seven-game goal-scoring drought. Thornton got his eighth goal of the season moments later, scoring uncontested after Theodore was surprised by a long shot.
“I don’t think we were bearing down on the offensive side, and we were giving up a lot of odd-man rushes,” Thornton said. “A lot of guys didn’t bring their ‘A’ game.”
McLean put Colorado ahead 3-2, keeping the puck on a 2-on-1 break for his fifth goal of the year, snapping a nine-game drought of his own.
Grier was awarded a penalty shot moments later, but hit Theodore’s pad. Clark then slipped a half-hearted shot past Toskala – who was screened – with 53 seconds left in the period.
“We knew we had to come out with an intense effort against these guys,” Clark said. “It’s a very nice feeling for me, but I owe a lot to those players out there with me.”
Notes: Colorado C Pierre Turgeon was activated from injured reserve before the game. The NHL’s 31st-leading career goal-scorer had spent the season on IR while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He played less than 8 minutes. … Sharks D Kyle McLaren was a last-minute scratch with a lower-body injury. He hadn’t missed a game this season. … Sharks RW Milan Michalek turned 22. … Golden State Warriors F/C Andris Biedrins attended the game. His brothers play hockey back home in Latvia.