WASHINGTON — Sharks coach Todd McLellan was surprised to hear his team has won 16 of its past 17 games against the Capitals.
"There isn't a magic wand or any secret formula to beating them," McLellan insisted.
Perhaps. A fluke of a first score, success on the power play, and two goals each by Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau sure do help, though.
So does getting to face a goaltender recalled from the minors and playing in the NHL for the first time in nearly a year.
Add it all up, and the Pacific Division-leading Sharks beat the Capitals 5-3 Monday night, as Pavelski also delivered two assists, Joe Thornton collected three assists, and Brent Burns scored on Braden Holtby, who was brought up from Hershey of the American Hockey League in the afternoon.
Capitals coach Dale Hunter might have been hoping for a spark — his team has won only three of its past 11 to fall out of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference, and left the ice to boos — or the element of surprise. Holtby hadn't started for Washington since March. Washington's No. 1 goalie, Tomas Vokoun, was ill, and No. 2 Michal Neuvirth played Sunday in a loss at the New York Rangers.
"Neuvy played the night before there, so we figured he hasn't played much of back-to-backs, so Holtby was ready to go," Hunter explained. "So we tried him."
Holtby had played Sunday, too, for Hershey, and didn't find out he'd be headed to Washington until Monday morning. When did he find out he'd be starting?
"When I got to the rink here before the game," Holtby said.
"Nothing changes," San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Goalies have to be pretty good to get to this level — and most of them are."
The Sharks went ahead 12:12 into the game on an odd score. Boyle struck a shot from beyond the red line. The puck deflected off Pavelski's stick, bounced off the ice, then trickled off Holtby's glove and into the net to make it 1-0. Pavelski was credited with his 21st goal of the season.
GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Jaroslav Spacek scored in his return to Montreal and visiting Carolina snapped Montreal's four-game winning streak with a 5-3 victory. Captain Eric Staal scored twice for the Hurricanes, who won for the third time in their past five games and collected at least a point for the fifth straight.
COMRIE RETIRES: Mike Comrie, who twice scored at least 30 goals in a season, retired after a third hip operation in five years. The 31-year-old center announced his retirement two weeks after his latest procedure, saying in a statement he was no longer able to "manage the rigors of NHL play." Comrie was limited to 127 games over the past three seasons. He had 589 regular-season games with the Oilers, Flyers, Coyotes, Senators, Islanders and Penguins. He had 168 goals and 197 assists.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: The league suspended Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo for two games for launching to hit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on Sunday. … The Oilers and defenseman Andy Sutton agreed to terms on a one-year extension.
First Period—1, San Jose, Pavelski 21 (Boyle, Vlasic), 12:12. Penalties—Ward, Was (goaltender interference), 2:57; Semin, Was (interference), 10:03; Boyle, SJ (interference), 15:01.
Second Period—2, San Jose, Pavelski 22 (Couture, Thornton), 3:26 (pp). 3, San Jose, Marleau 21 (Couture, Pavelski), 16:11 (pp). 4, Washington, Orlov 2 (Chimera, Hamrlik), 19:59. Penalties—Burns, SJ (hooking), :51; Laich, Was (cross-checking), 2:42; Rechlicz, Was, misconduct, 3:44; Pavelski, SJ (interference), 5:26; Braun, SJ (high-sticking), 10:03; Halpern, Was (high-sticking), 14:45.
Third Period—5, San Jose, Burns 8 (Thornton, Pavelski), 4:36. 6, San Jose, Marleau 22 (Thornton, Clowe), 7:03 (pp). 7, Washington, Hamrlik 2 (Johansson, Brouwer), 10:22. 8, Washington, Schultz 1 (Perreault), 14:09. Penalties—Beagle, Was (tripping), 5:47; Brouwer, Was (boarding), 18:48. Shots on Goal—San Jose 11-12-12—35. Washington 12-18-12—42. Power-play opportunities—San Jose 3 of 6; Washington 0 of 4. Goalies—San Jose, Greiss 8-4-1 (42 shots-39 saves). Washington, Holtby 0-1-0 (35-30). A—18,506 (18,398). T—2:31.
First Period—1, Carolina, Tlusty 13 (Allen), 3:09. Penalties—Bourque, Mon (high-sticking), 10:49; Emelin, Mon (tripping), 13:33.
Second Period—2, Carolina, Spacek 2 (Skinner, Jokinen), 9:41 (pp). 3, Montreal, Plekanec 12 (Campoli, Darche), 11:53. 4, Montreal, Cole 21 (Desharnais, Kaberle), 15:57 (pp). 5, Montreal, Desharnais 11 (Subban, Pacioretty), 17:53 (pp). Penalties—E.Staal, Car (illegal check to head minor), 3:47; Subban, Mon (holding), 3:59; Skinner, Car (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:45; Desharnais, Mon (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:45; Diaz, Mon (tripping), 8:03; Skinner, Car (high-sticking), 15:03; Harrison, Car (cross-checking), 16:36.
Third Period—6, Carolina, E.Staal 15, 3:15 (sh). 7, Carolina, McBain 5 (E.Staal, Faulk), 8:50 (pp). 8, Carolina, E.Staal 16 (McBain), 19:24 (en). Penalties—Allen, Car (hooking), 3:02; Campoli, Mon (slashing), 8:11; Samson, Car (tripping), 14:46; Allen, Car (roughing), 18:08; Bourque, Mon (roughing), 18:08; Gleason, Car (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Subban, Mon (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00. Shots on Goal—Carolina 16-8-11—35. Montreal 6-12-15—33. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 2 of 5; Montreal 2 of 5. Goalies—Carolina, Ward 21-18-10 (33 shots-30 saves). Montreal, Price 21-20-8 (34-30). A—21,273 (21,273). T—2:27.