SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) A visit from the NHL-leading Washington Capitals provided a measuring stick for the San Jose Sharks to see if they can truly consider themselves contenders this season.
They passed the test.
Joe Pavelski scored a tiebreaking power-play goal in the opening minute of the third period and Martin Jones stopped a key penalty shot to help the Sharks beat the Capitals 5-2 on Saturday night.
''They're a great hockey team,'' coach Peter DeBoer said. ''But, I'd like to think we're a pretty good team, too, and I think that showed tonight.''
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Brenden Dillon also scored to help San Jose move within one point of second-place Anaheim and three points of first-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. Brent Burns added an empty-netter to seal the win.
Jones made 23 saves, including a poke check on the penalty shot against Jay Beagle with 13 seconds remaining in the second period that kept the game tied and proved to be a key turning point.
''Jonesy's been a rock back there all year for us and a guy we don't want to have to rely on too much back there, giving up plays like that,'' Dillon said. ''But he came to aid of us and that was a big turning point for us. We go out at the start of the third and get two quick ones.''
Because Brent Burns' slash was a penalty shot and not a minor penalty, the Sharks were able to start the third period on the power play.
That proved crucial when Thornton fed Pavelski near the side of the net. Pavelski then beat Philipp Grubauer with a backhand for his 32nd goal of the season to give the Sharks the lead for good with his league-leading 10th winning goal.
''The third period didn't start the way we wanted it to,'' Grubauer said. ''I gave them the gift which was a huge turning point for them. Moving forward we have to have to eliminate that stuff.''
Dillon scored his second of the season just over 2 minutes later on a shot from the point to help San Jose bounce back from a lackluster 3-0 home loss to New Jersey on Thursday night with a win against the NHL's top team.
T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams scored for the Capitals, who missed an opportunity to become the first team to clinch a playoff berth. Grubauer made 23 saves as Washington ended a three-game California swing with three points.
The Capitals once again found themselves having to play from behind when Grubauer struggled to handle Dillon's point shot and Thornton lifted the rebound into the net midway through the first. Washington has been outscored 8-0 in the first period the past five games.
''It's really tough coming from behind every night,'' Williams said. ''It seems we're used to it now. We need to stop thinking about it and get that first goal.''
Washington took little time to erase the deficit thanks to sloppy play from the Sharks. Burns carelessly shot the puck over the glass while under no pressure for a delay of game penalty in the opening minute of the second period to give Washington's top-ranked power play 1:27 of a two-man advantage.
The Capitals took advantage when Nicklas Backstrom slid a cross-ice pass to Oshie, who one-timed his 21st goal to match his career best and tie the game at 1.
The Sharks quickly found themselves short-handed again a few minutes later when Dmitry Orlov misplayed a puck at the blue line, sending San Jose on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Ward fed Marleau for the goal to put San Jose back ahead.
The Capitals tied the game midway through the period when Evgeny Kuznetsov set up Williams for an easy tap-in goal.
NOTES: Marleau scored 20 goals in a season for the 13th time, passing last season's total by one. ... Thornton reached the 50 assist mark for the 10th team in his career with his pass that set up Pavelski's goal. ... Washington D Nate Schmidt returned after being a healthy scratch the past two games and Taylor Chorney sat out.