(Reuters) – The Colorado Avalanche scrapped to a 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks in overtime on Sunday to move into sole possession of the eighth, and final, playoff place in the Western Conference.
John-Michael Liles scored the game-winner at 2:59 in overtime to help the Avalanche snap a four-game losing streak. Colorado now have 91 points, two ahead of ninth-placed Calgary, with four matches remaining.
“It’s the biggest win of the year,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco told reporters after Liles re-directed Ryan Wilson’s shot into the net for the winner.
“And then the next game will be the biggest for us.”
Colorado (42-29-7) trailed 2-0 in the first period but scored four unanswered goals beginning with Kyle Quincey’s wrist shot in the first, two second-period goals from Peter Mueller and a Paul Stastny power-play conversion just 20 seconds into the third.
Sharks winger Patrick Marleau notched his 43rd goal of the season to cut the deficit before Joe Pavelski tied the game for San Jose (48-20-11), who had their Western Conference lead cut to two points after the Chicago Blackhawks beat Calgary 4-1.
Dany Heatley assisted on both goals in the third for San Jose, who have lost two of three while trying to secure the top seed in the conference for the playoffs.
Team points leader Joe Thornton returned to the lineup from a lower body injury and added two assists while Douglas Murray and Jamie McGinn opened the scoring for the Sharks.
San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 35 saves as Colorado out-shot the Sharks 40-22, but he could not hold off the determined Avalanche, who finished last in the West last season.
“All along we said we controlled our own destiny,” Liles said. “If we continue to win hockey games, then we’re going to put ourselves in (a) good position.”
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)