SAN JOSE, Calif. - Playing simple hockey has translated into three straight wins for the San Jose Sharks.
Behind a goal and two assists from Patrick Marleau, the Sharks maintained a two-point division lead over Phoenix and a three-point edge over Chicago in the race for the top seed in the Western playoffs. Marleau's 42nd goal gave the Sharks the lead midway through the second period. They went on to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Saturday night.
"We gave up that one earlier," Marleau said. "But we kept playing, stuck with it and came up with a couple in the second to take the lead. We talked about keeping the simple approach. Obviously, the little details mean a lot at this stage of the season. We started doing that in the last three games and gotten results."
The Sharks (46-19-10) have bounced back from a five-game losing streak that dropped them out of first place in the Pacific Division. They moved back atop the division and the Western Conference on Thursday when they beat Dallas.
One concern for the Sharks is that centre Joe Thornton went down with 4:37 left in the second period. Thornton, who leads the team in assists (66) and points (85), was hit by Alexander Edler near Vancouver's net. He went forward and his legs buckled. Then he fell to the ice.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan declined to speculate about Thornton's injury or whether he would play against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
"I haven't got an update that I can share with you at this point," McLellan said. "He left the game and didn't return and he's being evaluated now. Joe always wants to play but we have to see if he can. I haven't spoken with or heard from him yet."
Ryane Clowe who saw Thornton go down reacted with surprise that Thornton didn't get back up and start skating.
"It was just one of those bang-bang plays," Clowe said. "Joe, since I began to play with him, has never missed a game. I never have seen him go down very much. So when he stayed down we all just reacted."
Joe Pavelski scored two minutes after Marleau. Clowe added an empty-netter with 11 seconds left to make it 4-2. Dany Heatley also scored for San Jose.
San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov earned his 40th win of the season. He made 35 saves and has allowed only three goals during the winning streak. He has won five straight home games against Vancouver.
Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, the NHL scoring leader, had two assists to push his point total to 101.
Alexandre Burrows tallied his 34th goal of the season in the first period to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Sedin earned his 100th point with an assist.
It is just the fourth time a Canucks player has tallied 100 points, and the first since Markus Naslund did it in the 2002-03 season. The assist was his career-best 72nd.
"It's a milestone," Sedin said. "It means something for sure and it's something you can look back on later. I thought I'd never reach that total, so it's real nice."
Sedin's twin brother, Daniel, made it 3-2 when he scored with 12:05 remaining - assisted by Henrik.
The Canucks, who are stellar at home, fell to 18-18-2 on the road. Vancouver didn't lose any ground in the Northwest Division because Colorado lost to Phoenix. The Canucks have 94 points, five more than Colorado. Vancouver has seven games remaining. Colorado will play eight.
Heatley tied the game 1-1 in the second period when he scored a power-play goal with 16:59 left. It was Heatley 39th goal, 18th on the power play.
NOTES: Nabokov joined New Jersey's Martin Brodeur as the only NHL goalies to register three straight 40 win seasons. Brodeur did it from the 2005-2006 season to the 2007-2008 campaign. ... D Jay Leach and LW Jamie McGinn were healthy scratches for the Sharks. ... Canucks RW Pavel DeMitra missed the game because of personal reasons. Defencemen Andrew Alberts and Nolan Baumgartner were also scratched by Vancouver. ... Sharks C Scott Nichol returned to the lineup after missing two games because of an upper body injury. ... Vancouver's remaining three road games will be played in California.