After watching his team rally for the third straight game with a six-goal third period, all San Jose coach Todd McLellan wanted to talk about was the listless play the first two periods that put the Sharks in the hole.
"We were clearly outworked, outplayed, outhustled for two periods and that's very disappointing," McLellan said. "The positive is that they did respond in the third, but I'm disappointed in the first two, obviously."
Joe Pavelski made sure those first two periods wouldn't hurt the Sharks, capping a four-point third with a scintillating spin move for the tiebreaking goal that gave San Jose an 8-5 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Pavelski assisted on the first two goals of the period to erase a 4-2 deficit and then twice scored the tiebreaking goal, leading the Sharks to their third straight comeback victory.
"It's not acceptable the way we came out and played," he said. "The start of that game wasn't good. It wasn't how we want to play."
Dany Heatley also scored twice and had an assist and Manny Malhotra had a goal and two assists in the six-goal third period for San Jose. The Sharks overcame one-goal deficits in the third period of their previous two games, rallying to beat Montreal and Columbus.
Patric Hornqvist and J.P. Dumont each scored two goals for the Predators, who dominated the first two periods before falling apart in the third in what could be a possible playoff preview.
Dan Ellis faced only 11 shots in the first two periods, before allowing four goals on 12 shots in the third period. He was pulled for Pekka Rinne after allowing Pavelski's second goal.
"The fifth and sixth goals, those were horrendous things that happened," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We needed saves, that's the bottom line."
Rinne allowed Patrick Marleau's 40th goal with 2:26 to go, and Jay Leach scored an empty-netter for his first career goal.
The Sharks moved two points ahead of Chicago for the best record in the Western Conference. Nashville fell into a tie for seventh with Calgary.
The Sharks were thoroughly dominated for the first two periods, getting outshot 34-11 and trailing 4-2, but they erased the deficit in just over five minutes of the third period with goals by Heatley and Malhotra.
Malhotra's goal came when a rebound of a shot by Pavelski hit off his skate and went into the net. After a long replay review, the referees ruled Malhotra did not kick it in and counted the goal.
"It looked like a kicking motion," Trotz said. "Malhotra saw the puck was behind him and he tried to corral it. It's still a kicking motion. I don't agree, but there's nothing you can do right now."
Replay reviews weren't good to the Predators. They had a goal waved off in the second period because Dustin Boyd was ruled to have kicked the puck into the net.
Pavelski gave San Jose the lead when he took an awkward bounce off the board and skated in all alone against Ellis before scoring to give the Sharks their first lead. It was shortlived as Dumont tipped in a shot about two minutes later to tie it at 5-5 with 6:34 to go.
Pavelski's next goal was much more spectacular and stood up as the winner. He skated in on Ryan Suter, spun around with a 360-degree move and then shot the puck through Ellis' pads for what proved to be the winner.
"You expect the goalie to stop that one," Pavelski said. "I was surprised as anyone that it went in. I was just trying to get the puck on net. I think I've tried it a few times, but never had any kind of success. I usually bail halfway through it because I know it's not going to work."
Evgeni Nabokov made 40 saves for San Jose.
The Sharks came into the game off a four-day break and looked rusty from the start. The Predators controlled the play early, putting heavy pressure on Nabokov. They finally broke through on the power play when Hornqvist knocked home the rebound of a shot by Shea Weber to make it 1-0.
Nashville was outshooting San Jose 15-1 before Heatley scored his first goal to tie the game. The Predators scored three times in the second to take the 4-2 lead.
"It was a lack of work in the first two periods," Malhotra said. "We took shortcuts. They beat us to a lot of loose pucks. We didn't close gaps quick enough in the defensive zone and they took advantage of us. We'll definitely look to clean that up."