SAN JOSE – The Sharks scored four unanswered goals, including a pair by Joe Pavelski, in cruising past the goaltending-impaired Dallas Stars on Sunday at SAP Center, 5-1.
San Jose improved to 2-1-0 on its season-long six-game homestand, and remains seven points ahead of second place Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
Pavelski put the Sharks up to stay with a late first period goal, breaking a 1-1 tie. On a two-on-one with new linemate Jannik Hansen, the captain took the shot himself, whizzing it past Kari Lehtonen at 17:14.
Joel Ward added to the lead early in the second, getting free in the slot and whamming in a one-timer from Logan Couture at 2:46. Patrick Marleau helped generate the score by hustling to a loose puck on the wall and winning a board battle before giving it to Paul Martin at the point.
There was some confusion on the Dallas bench after that, as coach Lindy Ruff seemingly wanted to remove Lehtonen from the game for Antti Niemi. The former Sharks goalie was nowhere to be found, though, and one of the Stars had to leave the ice to go find Niemi as play resumed.
Niemi entered at the next stoppage, and surrendered Pavelski’s second of the evening, shorthanded, at 12:26 of the second. Pavelski raced in on a breakaway after Esa Lindell fanned on a puck at Dallas’ offensive blue line.
Chris Tierney’s first goal in 16 games capped the scoring, as he deposited a Dylan DeMelo rebound at 3:04 of the third period.
Couture and Martin each finished with two assists.
The Sharks improved to 9-2-1 in their last 12 meetings against Dallas in San Jose. The Stars, already out of playoff contention, dropped their second in a row in kicking off a four-game road trip.
The Sharks took an early lead on Marleau’s 23rd goal. Couture gained control of the puck below the line from Dan Hamhuis, and found Marleau all alone in front of the net. The Sharks’ all-time leading scorer picked the top far corner at 3:56.
San Jose let up after that, not recording a shot on goal for more than 10 minutes. In that time, Remi Elie scored his first NHL goal when the Sharks were caught scrambling in their own end at 12:54.
That was all Aaron Dell would surrender, though, as the backup recorded his 10th win with 29 saves.
The Sharks will visit Dallas twice later this month, on March 20 and 24, on the same road trip.
San Jose is 5-0-1 in its last six games in the second of a back-to-back, and 9-3-1 this season. The Sharks hosted and lost to Nashville on Saturday, 3-1.
The Sharks finished 0-for-5 on the power play, and killed off both Stars advantages. San Jose is 9-for-9 in its last three games on the PK, and 29-for-33 in its last 13 (87.8 percent).
Pavelski’s second marker was the Sharks’ sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
Dell has now given up two or fewer goals in 10 of his 13 starts this season. It was his first career game against the Stars.
Dallas has been forced to use both of its goaltenders a league-leading 12 times, according to Elias. The Stars entered the night last in the NHL in team save percentage.
Lehtonen allowed three goals on eight shots before he was pulled for the second straight game, while Niemi gave up the final two Sharks goals on 18 shots.
Melker Karlsson did not play with a lower body injury that is not believed to be serious. Rookie Marcus Sorensen returned to the lineup, skating on the fourth line and notching an assist on Tierney’s goal.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic played in his 800th career game, all with San Jose.
The Sabres make their only SAP Center appearance on Tuesday. In the first meeting on Feb. 7 in Buffalo, the Sabres erased a three-goal third period deficit and won 5-4 in overtime. They are 10-0-1 against the Sharks in the last 11 meetings.