Ryan Jones scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to put the Oilers up, but the Sharks replied with two unanswered, including a third-period tally by Patrick Marleau to propel the home side to a 3-2 win Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
35 seconds in, the Sharks got an excellent scoring chance when Joe Pavelski corralled a bouncing up at the crease's lip, hacking a backhand on goal, but Nikolai Khabibulin was equal to the task, stoning the 27-year-old with an athletic sliding save.
The Oilers replied moments later when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins orchestrated a heads-up back, between-the-legs pass to Taylor Hall but, like the Sharks' earlier attempt, it was turned aside by the goalie.
At 8:36, the Sharks made good on their eighth shot. Having scored a single goal on the season, Martin Havlat doubled his total when he and Michal Handzus choreographed a beauty; catching the Oilers on a lazy sequence, the duo broke in alone, passing back-and-forth as Havlat tucked the puck into the gaping cage behind a defenceless Khabibulin.
It was a slow start, but the Oilers kept coming on. At 17:16, the kid line worked some magic to equalize the score. Taylor Hall helped generate a neutral zone turnover, which sprung Jordan Eberle up the wing. No. 14 slowed, picked his spot and danced around San Jose's Colin White before cutting across the crease and depositing his 12th of the season.
With 20 minutes in the books, the Oilers and Sharks remained locked on the scoreboard and in shots, 9-9.
While the opening period expired without a power-play chance, the Oilers turned the tide at 4:58 when Eric Belanger was assessed a hooking minor. It was the visitors that got the best chance, however, and turned into a goal 30 seconds into the man-advantage.
Martin Havlat over-skated the puck in at his own blueline, sending No. 28 in alone on a breakaway. Although he was pestered with a slash by Marc Edouard-Vlasic, Jones released a snapshot that eluded Niemi's grasp blocker-side, putting the Oilers up 2-1.
The Oilers' 83.5-percent PK and improved (and then some with the goal), but it was assigned to come up big once more at 9:09 when Taylor Hall was sent to the box. And, once more, it was the home side that struggled to produce; the Oilers came close when Jones slapped the puck on goal on a 3-on-1, but Niemi made the stop.
Jones' night got all the more interesting moments later when he took Havlat's stick in the nose, killing the Sharks' opportunity and putting the Oilers on an abbreviated power-play; a couple late shots were mustered, but nothing too dangerous as the team's one-goal lead carried into the period's latter half.
It was short-lived, mind you, as Joe Thornton cracked a 14-game goalless drought to even it up; Vlasic placed a seeing-eye, cross-ice pass onto the veteran's tape down low behind the Oilers' D, and he made no mistake in sliding the puck past Khabibulin to knot the score once more.
With 2:04 on the clock, Ladislav Smid was assessed an interference minor when he clipped Jamie McGinn as he drove to the net on an odd-man rush. Khabibulin helped preserve the 2-2 deadlock as he made three brilliant stops, including a quick shot from the slot by Ryan Clowe which he batted aside with his right pad.
With 40 minutes expired, the Sharks held a 23-16 lead on the shot clock.
The Oilers almost broke the 2-2 score three minutes into the period when Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle dominated the Sharks in an unrelenting, minute-long sequence, but Niemi came up big to keep to keep his team in the game.
Moments later at 5:59, Theo Peckham was charged with interference, putting the Sharks' 0-for-4 power-play to work. San Jose wasted no time; Joe Pavelski's wraparound attempt was denied, but Patrick Marleau was quick to the scene, pouncing on the rebound and hammering the puck into the open net to secure a 3-2 lead for the home side.
A holding minor to San Jose's Jason Demers at 9:07 put the Oilers on their second power-play chance of the evening. The Oilers generate a pair of shots on the opportunity, but were unable to convert.
Desperate for a goal, the Oilers pulled Khabibulin for an extra-attacker with a minute remaining, but the orange and blue couldn't cash another as the Sharks took a 3-2 win.
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