Daniel Winnik scored his first goal with San Jose to give the Sharks' playoff hopes a needed boost with a 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Joe Pavelski scored early in the first period to let San Jose play from ahead and Winnik added insurance early in the third when he ended his 43-game drought without a goal as the Sharks showed much more life than they had in lackluster losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles earlier in the week. Antti Niemi made 16 saves.
The Bruins, coming off an 8-0 win Monday night against Toronto, didn't get on the board until Zdeno Chara scored with 4:15 remaining to cut the deficit to 2-1. They couldn't get any more and dropped their fourth straight road game — their longest skid since December 2009. Boston remained three points ahead of idle Ottawa for the Northeast Division lead with one game in hand.
The Sharks had lost two straight and eight of 11 to put their playoff hopes in peril after making it all the way to the Western Conference finals the past two seasons. They began the night in 10th place in the conference, two points out of a playoff spot and three behind division leader Dallas. The win left them one point out of playoff position.
The Sharks had the better of the play through two periods, outshooting the Bruins 20-9. But San Jose only led 1-0 on Pavelski's early goal because of strong play from Tim Thomas. Thomas made two tough stops on Dan Boyle in the second period before the Bruins nearly got the equalizer when Milan Lucic's deflection of a pass from David Krejci got past Niemi but hit off the crossbar.
They finally got the lead early in the third when Andrew Desjardins took the puck from Tyler Seguin on a strong backcheck to start a three-on-two rush. He sent a cross-ice pass to Winnik, who beat Thomas with a high wrist shot for his first goal in 13 games since being traded from Colorado to San Jose.
That gave the Sharks some breathing room that they needed when Chara banked a shot from behind the net off Niemi and in for the score. San Jose held on for the key win.
Now the Sharks need that kind of success against their Western Conference rivals. Seven of their remaining eight games are against the teams in direct competition for the final playoff spots.
The Sharks struck first, capitalizing on a strong shift from their top line early in the opening period. Joe Thornton fed Patrick Marleau from behind the net and Thomas made the initial save. But Pavelski was standing all alone at the edge of the crease and knocked in the rebound for his 27th goal that was the only score in the first period.
Notes: Boston has not won three straight games since a seven-game winning streak in December. ... Winnik's last goal was Dec. 15, 2011, against San Jose for Colorado. ... F Michal Handzus returned to the Sharks' lineup after missing six games with a lower-body injury and F Tommy Wingels was back after missing five games with an upper-body injury.