Sharks move into first in division with 5-1 nod over Colorado

SAN JOSE– An eventful night for the San Jose Sharks concluded with a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Monday at sold-out HP Pavilion.

After rivals Dallas and Los Angeles lost games in Canada, San Jose was able to bound past three teams into first place in the bunched Pacific Division by producing the wire-to-wire decision.

The Sharks embark on a two-game roadtrip, facing Anaheim Wednesday and Dallas Thursday. Dallas comes to San Jose Saturday night to complete the home-and-home series.

San Jose, with six games left in the regular season, has 88 points atop the division. Winning the division locks a team into third place in the Western Conference, since St. Louis and Vancouver cannot be caught for the top two positions in the conference.

Dallas and Phoenix, each with 87 points, are seventh and eighth at the moment in the conference. Los Angeles and Colorado are ninth and 10th with 86 points, but the Avalanche has played two more games than Los Angeles.

Joe Pavelski scored twice against the Avalanche to reach 300 points for his career. Dan Boyle’s first of two assists left the defenseman with 500 career points.

After a scoreless first period, San Jose broke the game open with a 3-1 scoring exhibition in the second period.

Justin Braun’s low shot from the top of the left circle rebounded off the leg of Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda and right to a waiting Pavelski in the low slot for the dump-in past goaltender Semyon Varlamov at 3:50 of the second. Boyle’s cross-ice pass to Braun ignited the scoring play.

Tommy Wingels earned his sixth assist of the season when he pulled the puck from the endboards to Andrew Desjardins at the right dot. Desjardins delivered a low shot past defenseman Shane O’Brien and between Varlamov’s pads at 9:19 for the 2-0 cushion.

The Avalanche ruined goaltender Antti Niemi’s shut-out bid when O’Brien, at the right post, one-timed a cross-ice pass from Ryan O’Reilly to complete a 3-on-2 rush.

The Sharks regrouped to gain the two-goal advantage with Torrey Mitchell’s ninth goal of the season at the 15:44 mark. Michal Handzus worked the puck free from pressure at the endboards before whipping a pass to Mitchell in the low slot for the one-timer.

Pavelski collected Joe Thornton’s pass in the right corner of the Colorado zone before charging to the right post to force the puck past Varlamov at 35 seconds of the third period. Ryane Clowe completed the scoring with an empty-netter at 16:23 of the period.

San Jose finished with a 36-32 edge in shots on net.

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