Having proved they could overcome a three-goal deficit and win, the San Jose Sharks nearly proved they could take a three-goal lead and lose.
Dany Heatley scored 14 seconds into the game to help San Jose grab a three-goal lead, and Ryane Clowe's goal turned out to be the winner as the Sharks held off the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on Wednesday night at the Honda Center for their sixth win in seven games.
The Sharks came to Anaheim riding their 5-3 comeback win at home against Phoenix on Tuesday -- a game they trailed 3-0 in the final seconds of the middle period before rallying. They ran off three goals in the first 11:15, but wound up hanging on behind a 27-save performance by Antti Niemi to pull even with the Ducks -- both have 60 points, five behind first-place Dallas in the Pacific Division.
"We had a good start," Clowe said. "They had a little bit of a layoff, and we wanted to come out and jump on them. We had our legs in the third period last night and carried it over."
San Jose coach Todd McLellan said having a game under their belt made a big difference.
"We thought having played last night, we might have our legs underneath us while they struggled to find theirs, and that was the case," McLellan said. "We were fortunate to get out to the big lead. We had the opportunity to play last night, to get that 'game feel' and we really wanted to take advantage of that early in the game."
Jonas Hiller, the Ducks' All-Star goaltender, got a rude greeting from the Sharks.
Heatley backhanded his own rebound under Hiller to give the Sharks a quick lead. At 7:34, Ben Eager raced up the left side and ripped a wrister from above the left circle that beat Hiller cleanly past his blocker. Jason Demers' slap shot from the right point skidded along the ice and went inside the far post at 11:15, giving San Jose a 3-0 lead and sending Hiller to the bench in favor of Curtis McElhinney.
"We were lethargic to start the game," said forward Bobby Ryan, whose third-period goal made it a one-goal game, "and going down 3-0 to a division rival is a tough hole to crawl out of."
Hiller is now 4-9 against the Sharks in his career.
The Ducks got one back when Joffrey Lupul scored 5:44 into the second period, but Clowe's power-play rebound goal at 15:39 restored San Jose's three-goal lead.
Cam Fowler answered with a power-play goal on another rebound with 2:08 left in the second period, and Ryan made it a one-goal game 5:36 into the third, beating Niemi with a wrist shot through traffic for his eighth goal in 10 games.
"When we scored there in the third, the whole momentum shifted," Ryan said. "We controlled the play for the better part of the third. They did a good job. They held onto a lead that they should have."
Anaheim had numerous chances in the final minutes, including several for former Sharks forward Teemu Selanne, but came up short in its last home game before beginning a four-game trip on Saturday afternoon in Colorado.
"We were concerned about back-to-back games after the break," McLellan said. "It caught up with us in the last third of the game, where we didn't have the energy or the legs that we needed to sustain any type of attack.
"We've still got some work to do, but what's important is the 5-on-5 goals, the second chances, getting (goals) from sources that aren't necessarily regular goal-scorers. Ben Eager's goal tonight was huge for us. That's the way you win -- you can't rely on three or four guys."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was disappointed with his team's start after the long layoff.
"We haven’t played that type of hockey in a long time," Carlyle said. "But those are the things that you have to deal with. We’ll come to work tomorrow and prepare for the next one because we can’t do anything about the one that just went by."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.