SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fresh off clinching the playoffs, the San Jose Sharks came out with a first period that resembled their lacklustre first half of the season rather than the scintillating second half that has carried them to the top of their division.
They turned it all around in the final two periods and moved a step closer to wrapping up the Pacific Division title.
Devin Setoguchi scored the tiebreaking goal on the power play with 5:21 remaining and the Sharks rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.
“We were talking about how we worked so hard as of late to get back on top of our division,” Setoguchi said. “Just to let it slip like that and have a bad period wasn’t something we wanted to do. We worked so hard and it’s so easy to fall right back into a hole. That was the talk we had and it worked.”
Patrick Marleau scored twice and Dany Heatley added his 25th goal for the Sharks, who trailed 2-0 after one period before coming back for their seventh win in eight games.
San Jose remained a point ahead of Detroit for second place in the Western Conference with four games remaining, reaching the 100-point mark for the fifth consecutive season. The Sharks can clinch their fourth straight division title by beating Los Angeles at home on Monday.
“It’s that time of year right now where we have got to prepare them, we have got to motivate them, but ultimately they need to decide how much of an input they have in each of the games and I thought they responded well in the second and third,” coach Todd McLellan said.
Bobby Ryan and Lubomir Visnovsky scored for the Ducks, who had won seven of eight to move into seventh place in the conference. Anaheim can still clinch a playoff berth by winning two of its final four games.
“We’re going to have play a full 60 minutes against a team like that,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “We were unable to do that tonight.”
Ray Emery made 29 saves for the Ducks, but lost for the first time in seven starts this season. He had little chance on the game-winner.
With the Sharks applying heavy pressure, Setoguchi passed up a chance at a one-timer from Marleau, sending the puck to Dan Boyle at the point. Boyle immediately returned the puck to Setoguchi, who rocketed a shot past Emery to give the Sharks the lead with his 21st goal.
“I was going to shoot the first one from Patty,” Setoguchi said. “I didn’t think he was going to pass it to me and I wasn’t ready for it. I knew Dan would pump and give it back to me. I had a chance earlier where I had a miss-hit and it went off the pad. I knew I had to try to get it upstairs, and I got one.”
Marleau put the game away in the final minute with an empty-netter for his 37th goal of the season and 10th in eight games.
Antti Niemi made 20 saves to get the win in his 33rd consecutive start.
This was a tense meeting between two rivals who could meet again with much more at stake in a little more than a week. If the season ended Saturday, these teams would open the playoffs against each other.
There were few good scoring chances early in the third with no one wanting to make the mistake that could cost their team crucial points.
Heatley made a great end-to-end rush before being stopped by Emery. The Sharks couldn’t knock in the rebound following a scramble in front but got their first power play when Jason Blake was called for holding with 6:22 remaining.
That set up Setoguchi’s goal and had Ducks coach Randy Carlyle fuming after the game. He was angry about the call on Blake, and a no-call earlier in the third when Douglas Murray slammed Visnovsky into the boards with a hit that left Visnovsky with an upper body injury.
“Blake has no helmet on, and (Ryane) Clowe hits him in the head with his stick. That’s what starts it,” Carlyle said. “Two players are kind of mugging one another and we come out of it with a disadvantage. So I felt it’s a chicken call in a tight hockey game. … And then Doug Murray takes a run at Visnovsky from halfway across the ice. I counted the steps, he took five steps, I just watched it. He comes halfway across the rink to run at the guy. But that’s OK.”
After putting up a season-high 52 shots ina 6-0 win over Dallas on Thursday that clinched the playoffs, the Sharks got only two on net in the first 18-plus minutes of this game and fell behind 2-0.
But they responded with the goals in the second from Heatley and Marleau to tie it.
NOTES: Murray tied a team record with nine hits. … The Ducks and Sharks are the only teams with five players with at least 60 points this season. … McLellan got his 150th career win, two behind Mike Keenan for the most in the first three seasons behind the bench.