SAN JOSE -- From the moment Patrick Marleau's goal skittered into the net, the comeback seemed as inevitable as the collapse.
The San Jose Sharks finally found a weakness in the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were crushed under the burden of a miserable season that keeps getting worse.
Joe Pavelski tipped home the go-ahead goal with 9:39 to play, and the Sharks roared back from a two-goal deficit in the third period for their seventh win in eight games, 3-2 over the miserable Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
For two periods, Toronto seemed headed for an improbable road victory that could assuage several months of misery for Canada's favorite team, which has the NHL's third-lowest point total. But after Marleau ended former teammate Vesa Toskala's shutout bid with a deflected power-play goal, the Maple Leafs sagged -- and the emboldened Sharks struck two more times.
"Tosk was playing unbelievable, (but) going into the third period with a power play was huge for us as long as we got the job done, and we did," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "Once we broke the ice, we felt better and they felt worse, and you could see the difference from that point on. We were all over them, they took some penalties, and the next thing you know, it's lights out."
Craig Rivet tied it during a two-man advantage with 11:29 left, and Pavelski adroitly redirected Jonathan Cheechoo's shot for the winner as the Sharks scored three times in less than 10 minutes.
Toronto has won just two of its 13 games over the last four weeks, and its ravenous fan base all but expects the imminent departure of coach Paul Maurice or general manager John Ferguson -- perhaps both. Thousands of Leafs fans at the Shark Tank watched their much-loved losers' third-period collapse in dismay.
Joe Thornton had two assists and Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for the first-place Sharks, who have the NHL's third-highest point total behind Detroit and Ottawa.
Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina scored for the Maple Leafs, who wasted two outstanding periods against an elite team in their fifth consecutive loss.
"Good teams like San Jose will come back if you give them a chance," Toskala said. "It's pretty frustrating. We need points badly so we can get back in the playoff race."
SENATORS 3, RED WINGS 2, at Ottawa -- Daniel Alfredsson scored his second power-play goal of the game with 2:56 remaining to lift Ottawa over Detroit in a matchup of the NHL's top two teams.
Alfredsson restored Ottawa's lead with his 28th goal of the season after the Senators blew a 2-0 advantage earlier in the period. He also scored on a slap shot from the point past former teammate Dominik Hasek to open the scoring just 1:04 in.
BRUINS 4, FLYERS 3 (OT), at Philadelphia -- Aaron Ward scored 43 seconds into overtime to give Boston the win. Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki ranged far out of the crease to poke away a loose puck and prevent a breakaway. But the puck went to Ward near the right boards. Ward easily beat Niittymaki with a slap shot.
KINGS 4, STARS 3 (S), at Los Angeles -- Patrick O'Sullivan scored the deciding goal in a shootout, and Alexander Frolov and Derek Armstrong scored 67 seconds apart in the first period for Los Angeles.
DEVILS 3, SABRES 2 (SO), at Buffalo -- Patrik Elias and Zach Parise scored shootout goals to help New Jersey extend the Sabres' winless streak to nine games.
THRASHERS 3, PENGUINS 2 (SO), at Atlanta -- Mark Recchi, playing against his former Pittsburgh teammates for the first time since being claimed off waivers by Atlanta, scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Thrashers the win.
Sidney Crosby scored two goals for Pittsburgh, but he and three teammates were denied in the shootout by Kari Lehtonen.
RANGERS 4, CANADIENS 1, at New York -- Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes had a goal and an assist as the Rangers ended a five-game losing streak.
AVALANCHE 5, HURRICANES 4, at Raleigh, N.C. -- Marek Svatos capped a third-period rally with two goals in about 2 minutes, and Colorado rallied three times from two-goal deficits to beat Carolina. Svatos has nine goals in his past 10 games.
LIGHTNING 5, PANTHERS 3, at Sunrise, Fla. -- Nick Tarnasky and Brad Richards each scored two goals for Tampa Bay.
BLUE JACKETS 2, PREDATORS 1 (SO), at Columbus, Ohio -- Nikolai Zherdev scored the lone shootout goal and set up the tying goal in regulation to help Columbus end a 12-game losing streak against Nashville.