DENVER -- Different team, same result.
With Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen sidelined by injuries, the Sharks faced a Colorado Avalanche squad in Denver Tuesday featuring significantly less firepower than the team that beat them on Jan. 18.
Regardless, the Avalanche found a way to squeak out a 3-1 win in the rematch without their top two scorers, capitalizing on a pair of defensive miscues by blue liner Brenden Dillon.
The loss ended the Sharks' road trip on a sour note as they flew back to San Jose with a 2-2-1 record despite outshooting the Avalanche 39-20 Tuesday.
The loss cut the Sharks' lead over the Anaheim Ducks for second place in the Pacific Division to two points.
The Avalanche beat the Sharks 5-3 on Jan. 18 behind a two-goal, three-point game from MacKinnon, extending their winning streak to eight games.
They spoiled the Sharks' near-perfect first period Tuesday by scoring a pair of gift-wrapped goals.
Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring at 2:31 of the second, punching in a pass from J.T Compher on a two-on-one play. The Avalanche (29-19-4) received an odd-man rush because Dillon fell as he was trying to clear the puck out of his own zone, allowing Tyson Jost to recover the puck at the blue line and feed it ahead to Compher.
Dillon also got victimized on the Avalanche's second goal just 2:14 later.
Jost made it 2-0 on another Avalanche rush play by taking a stretch pass from Nail Yakupov and beating Dillon at the blue line before he fired the puck past goalie Martin Jones' glove.
The meltdown at the beginning of the second was particularly deflating because the Sharks had dominated the first, outshooting the Avalanche 14-3 and holding them without a shot for the period's final 15:20. The Sharks controlled possession throughout the period, storming the Avalanche's zone in waves.
But the Sharks (28-17-8) eventually cut the Avalanche's lead to 2-1 at 13:29 of the second on Joel Ward's first goal in 30 games.
After the Sharks fourth line controlled possession throughout their shift, Ward put the puck into the roof from the doorstep, recording his first goal since Nov. 22. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Barclay Goodrow recorded assists on the play.
The Sharks are pleased that they won't be seeing Avalanche backup goalie Jonathan Bernier again until April 5 at the earliest.
Bernier, who was named the NHL's third star of the month in January after compiling a 2.10 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in 11 appearances, stifled the Sharks in their first meeting, making 45 save and stopping 19 of the last 20 shots he faced in the third period.
The backup goalie picked up where he left off Tuesday, making 38 saves on 39 shots Tuesday.
Compher iced the game at 19:56 of the third, scoring into an empty net.
On the bright side, the Sharks penalty kill finished the road trip with perfect grades, going 10 for 10 over five games.
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