Yet the NHL leaders had enough depth and determination to grab the series lead in the latest chapter of a West Coast rivalry that gets more intriguing with each meeting. Corey Perry scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, and the Ducks overcame goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere's injury for a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.
Anaheim began the game without centre Todd Marchant and defenceman Sean O'Donnell, and defenceman Francois Beauchemin left in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Moments later, Giguere strained his groin when his skate apparently got caught near one post as Sharks rookie Joe Pavelski skated behind his net, allowing Steve Bernier to score the tying goal.
Given all the obstacles the Ducks faced, even Chris Pronger acknowledged some surprise to be celebrating a victory in the rink of their biggest Pacific Division threat.
"You get a number of guys going down, and certainly the bench shortens up," Pronger said. "Coming back right after Christmas, guys had to dig down. We kept it simple, didn't try to get outside ourselves. We had to bear down."
That's a regular occurrence for Anaheim, which has a franchise-record 62 points in 39 games while winning two of three against San Jose in this burgeoning rivalry. Travis Green, Chris Kunitz and Dustin Penner also scored for the Ducks, who still haven't lost consecutive games in regulation during one of the greatest starts in league history.
Giguere, the NHL leader with 23 wins, skated off gingerly before returning to watch the third period from behind the glass. Though Giguere and coach Randy Carlyle wouldn't speculate on the extent of his injury, the goalie blamed the Shark Tank ice and the NHL's abbreviated post-Christmas travel schedule for his injury.
"It's just tough to play a game that was, especially in a building like this where the ice is horrendous, where it's humid and hot," Giguere said. "It's just terrible ice, terrible and humid. At least if you have good quality ice, you might not have so many guys getting hurt."
Michael Wall relieved Giguere, but had to make just four saves in 23½ minutes in his second NHL appearance. The Sharks' offensive urgency evaporated when Giguere left, and Perry broke a tie by deflecting Samuel Pahlsson's long shot past Evgeni Nabokov, who made 26 saves but blamed himself for a couple of soft goals that typified the Sharks' effort.
"We didn't shoot the puck enough," Pavelski said. "We missed what chances we had. We really didn't challenge them. They tightened up on us."
Christian Ehrhoff and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks, who have lost three of five on a six-game homestand. San Jose got a late two-man advantage when Pronger got a questionable penalty for putting the puck in the seats, but couldn't score on a lengthy power play.
"You've got to give them credit," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "They really buckled down and defended well. We've got to find a way to get a shot in there (in the third period). We had about 10 shots blocked in a row."
Nabokov chiefly regretted allowing Green to score his first goal of the season from the blue line on the first shift of his first game in a month. The 13-year veteran signed with Anaheim as a free agent last summer, but has been a healthy scratch nearly all season long, including the previous 11 games.
Later, Joe Thornton set up Marleau's team-leading 16th goal by outhustling two Ducks to a loose puck, drawing a delayed penalty while holding off a defender and then making a perfect cross-ice pass to the San Jose captain, who skated off the bench.
Kunitz tied it early in the second period with his 17th goal. The Ducks then pounced on another San Jose lapse, with Penner sneaking around the net to beat Nabokov late in the second period.
Wall, a 21-year-old rookie filling in while Ilya Bryzgalov recovers from a strained groin, had played in just one previous NHL game, winning 5-3 against Calgary on Nov. 26. Yet the Sharks couldn't even put a shot on Wall until 12 minutes remained in the third period.
Notes: Green has played just four times all season, but finally cracked the lineup when Marchant sat out for the first time with an undisclosed lower-body injury. O'Donnell sat out his second straight game to rest his foot injury. ... Another sign that the Sharks are pleased with Pavelski: Wilson presented the rookie with jersey No. 8 - his college number - before the game. Pavelski had been wearing No. 53. ... Nabokov hasn't allowed more than one goal to any opponent except Anaheim since Nov. 15.