Pavelski leads Sharks past Stars

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SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- Coach Todd McLellan has been

calling his San Jose Sharks a fragile team for a few weeks now,

even with a record that puts them among the NHL's elite.

After a resilient week of play culminated in one last avenging

victory over the Dallas Stars, McLellan is hoping his team won't

need to be handled with quite so much care anymore.

Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi snapped lengthy goal droughts

and the Sharks earned back-to-back wins for just the second time

in nearly four weeks, beating Dallas, 5-2, on Saturday.

Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves to remain unbeaten since his return

from injury, while Pavelski scored three points and Joe Thornton

added another timely goal. The Sharks pulled within a point of

Detroit for the overall NHL lead with their fifth win in six

meetings with the Stars, who knocked them out of the postseason

last spring.

McLellan realized the Sharks were all but certain to come down

from a 25-3-2 start that gave them the league's best record for

much of the season. While San Jose's place in the overall

standings hasn't changed much, the rookie head coach repeatedly

pointed out a mental fragility that could signal the Sharks are

unprepared for the rigors of playoff hockey.

In their latest meeting with a club struggling to stay in the

playoff race, the Sharks were more than strong enough. Milan

Michalek also scored and captain Patrick Marleau added an

empty-netter.

"We're building on what's transpired over the last week," said

McLellan, whose Sharks have won four of five after a four-game

winless streak. "We slept a little bit early. The first 10

minutes, we weren't the better team, but once we got ourselves

into it and woke up a little bit, we were doing a lot of the

things that we needed to do."

San Jose avenged the Stars' 4-1 victory at the Shark Tank

earlier this month with a comprehensive effort highlighted by

two sequences of rapid-fire goals. Thornton and Setoguchi

scored 29 seconds apart in the first period before Pavelski and

Michalek got their goals 19 seconds apart in the second.

Pavelski ended a seven-game goal drought, while Setoguchi

stopped a 12-game goalless slide that got him booted from the

top line. It's no coincidence that both skids ended after the

young forwards were teamed on the Sharks' second line with

Michalek this week.

"Maybe it's cleared my mind," said Setoguchi, who spent most of

the season on Thornton's wing with Marleau. "It's strange how

your mind can get so clouded when things aren't going well.

Hopefully, I can keep it going from here."

San Jose's performance in a rare Shark Tank matinee wasn't all

positive. Defenseman Rob Blake left midway through the second

period with a lower body injury, and center Marcel Goc didn't

return after apparently injuring his leg in the third.

McLellan said both problems were "ouwees, not injuries." He

expected Goc to miss Sunday's home game against Colorado but

wouldn't rule out Blake.

While San Jose is getting itself together, Dallas is falling

apart. Brad Richards returned to the Stars' lineup after a

five-week absence with a broken wrist, but Dallas' third-leading

scorer then broke his other hand in the third period, putting

him out indefinitely.

Loui Eriksson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, who went

winless on their three-game trip.

"You just have to get back at it and find a way to get points,"

Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "The times we looked good are

the times we were pushing and rushing. The times we don't look

good are when we're chasing. ... I thought we were good early,

and then we gave up the two quick goals and chased the game the

rest of the way. We could never regain the momentum."

Marty Turco wasn't sharp while making 25 saves for Dallas, which

is running out of time to make a playoff push with just 10

regular-season games to go. The Stars are in a three-way tie

for 10th place in the Western Conference, but a 4-10-1 slump has

them in danger of missing the postseason for the first time

since 2002.

"We need to keep pushing," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who

scored in the third period. "That's a big two points to give up

today. We have 10 games left and we can't give up."

Goc, the Sharks' German checking specialist, needed help to get

to the locker room with about 10 minutes left, when he collapsed

in a heap behind Dallas' net. Goc, who only returned six games

ago from a lower body injury that kept him out for a month,

appeared to be favoring his left leg.

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