SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks tried every offensive trick in their voluminous book during the final 80 seconds, pulling their goalie and pounding Colorado's Jose Theodore with a remarkable sustained fury.
Theodore and the Avalanche emerged without a scratch — and with more proof their commitment to steady team defense is working while their more glamorous stars are sidelined.
Ben Guite and T.J. Hensick scored on graceful deflections and Theodore returned from injury to make 30 saves, leading the Avalanche's stellar defensive effort in a 3-1 victory Wednesday night.
Brett Clark's shots were redirected to score both early goals for the Avalanche, who split their four-game season series with San Jose by holding on through a one-sided third period.
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Theodore, who missed Colorado's last three games with back spasms, needed several minutes to catch his breath after an uncommonly tough test in his comeback start.
"It's either humid in this building, or I'm out of shape," he said. He looked quite ready for the challenge a few moments earlier.
Though Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek all were on the verge of scoring in that exhilarating last-second barrage by the Sharks, Colorado survived — and Jeff Finger added an empty-net goal in the final second.
"They came at me pretty hard, so it was a good test for my back," Theodore said. "It's hard to take those extra days off, but it was the smart thing to do."
Marleau evened it early in the second with his 10th goal of a disappointing season, banging home a perfect cross-ice pass from defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh during a power play.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 22 shots for the Sharks, whose three-game home winning streak ended. The Sharks had one of the NHL's worst home records for much of the year before getting on their longest roll of the season early in their six-game homestand.
CAPITALS 4, FLYERS 3, at Philadelphia — Matt Bradley and Viktor Kozlov scored 64 seconds apart early in the third period to lead Washington over Philadelphia. NHL scoring leader Alex Ovechkin got his league-best 46th goal for the Caps, who moved into first place in the mediocre Southeast Division.
SABRES 3, DEVILS 2 (SO), at Buffalo — Drew Stafford and Henrik Tallinder scored consecutive goals in the shootout to lift Buffalo to its fifth win in six games. Stafford beat New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur with a wrist shot in the first round of the shootout. Tallinder followed with a nifty deke.
OILERS 4, BLACKHAWKS 1, at Edmonton, Alberta — Joni Pitkanen had a goal and an assist to help Edmonton defeat Chicago.
TOCCHET REJOINS COYOTES — Rick Tocchet is rejoining the staff of Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky after an absence of two years while he dealt with legal issues surrounding his involvement with illegal gambling.
The time away was a combination of a leave of absence and a suspension by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Tocchet returns to his former job of associate head coach.
Tocchet said, "I feel bad for my parents and everybody else that this went down, but the bottom line is that after everybody did due diligence, I'm going to be back coaching again tomorrow."