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Patrick Marleau bangs away at the puck, just before scoring game winning goal in overtime, as the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game 5, Saturday night in San Jose. The Ducks still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. ((Stephen Dunn/Getty Images))

Patrick Marleau scored the winning goal at 6:02 in overtime, jamming the puck past goaltender Jonas Hiller to give the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 win Saturday night over the visiting Anaheim Ducks, staving off elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Joe Thornton set up the controversial winner, picking up a point on every San Jose goal, after managing just two assists in the first four games of the series.

After Thornton centred the puck, Marleau appeared to push Hiller into the net. Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle didn't think the goal should have counted.

"The reason the puck went into the net, was that their player pushed the goalie's pad," Carlyle said, "and as they pushed his pad, the back of [Hiller's] skate knocked the puck into the net."

"I think there needs to be some clarification. My view is that they're not allowed to push the goaltender into the net."

Both teams traded chances in an unusually wide-open third period that saw the Ducks erase a 2-0 deficit on goals by Ryan Carter and Corey Perry.

Sharks' best players deliver

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks in the first period, when he banged home a rebound off a Marleau shot.

Thornton also assisted on Devin Setogouchi's goal late in the second period.

The trio of Thornton, Setogouchi and Marleau were the Sharks' leading scorers during the regular season, but they were snakebitten until Saturday. In Game 5, they came to life, reuniting on the top line, combining for seven points.

"It's one of those things, in the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players," Marleau acknowledged.

The Sharks' coaching staff had openly challenged Marleau and Thornton to pick up their games.

"This is supposed to be their time of year," San Jose head coach Todd McLellan said. "People have questioned their character and the team's character, and it's only been squashed for one night. It's just one game. They have to do it again."

While McLellan was pleased with the play of his top line, he's concerned about how his team allowed the Ducks to get back in the game with two quick goals to start the third period. 

"It affected us for a few minutes. But I thought the leadership showed up, Jeremy Roenick, in particular, and got us going."

"There were times when we didn't win faceoffs and didn't skate. It's hard to keep your foot on the gas pedal [the whole game] but we have to work on it and improve," McLellan said.

Ducks came close to ending series

Anaheim leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, but the Ducks had several chances to win the game, and the series, in the third period.

One of their best opportunities came from Mike Brown, who had a breakaway when Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic stumbled at centre-ice. Brown lost control of the puck, and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov easily turned it aside.

Just seconds before Brown's breakaway, the Sharks had a golden opportunity of their own, when Joe Pavelski and Ryan Clowe had a two-on-none in front of Hiller. But Clowe couldn't put it past the Anaheim goalie, who made 45 saves on the night.

Nabokov stopped 23 of 25 shots to earn the win.

"We have high expectations," Sharks defenceman Doug Murray said. "We've dug ourselves into a hole, and now we have to get out of it."

Game 6 is Monday night in Anaheim (CBC TV, CBCSports.ca).