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Sharks beat Avalanche to boost slim playoff hopes
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SAN JOSE (AP) — With seven points in their past four games, the San Jose Sharks finally seem to be hitting their stride. Whether the resurgence came in time to lead them back to the playoffs remains to be seen.

Scott Hannan and Chris Tierney scored goals to help the Sharks keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

“We’re starting to get in a groove right now,” Tierney said. “If we keep playing the way we did and fast and supporting each other, we’ll get a lot of wins I think.”

Patrick Marleau also scored and Logan Couture and John Scott added empty-net goals for the Sharks, who have won 13 straight regular-season home games against Colorado. Alex Stalock made 19 saves in his third straight start in place of sick starter Antti Niemi.

The Sharks moved within five points of Winnipeg for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with five games remaining.

Los Angeles is two points behind the Jets with a game in hand. San Jose also trails Calgary by six points for third place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks will likely need to win their final five games and get some help to extend their streak of consecutive playoff berths to 11 seasons.

“Hopefully we can get a couple more wins here and make it interesting,” Scott said.

Matt Duchene scored a power-play goal for the Avalanche, who began a three-game road trip with a loss. Reto Berra made 25 saves as Colorado remained eight points behind the Jets and appear likely to miss the playoffs a year after winning the Central Division.

“We can’t be happy the way we’ve been playing,” coach Patrick Roy said. “I thought tonight we competed, well enough to be in the game. Every time you go on the ice wearing that logo you have to wear it with pride.”

After little action in the first two periods, the teams combined for three goals in a span of just over 2 minutes midway through the third.

The Sharks started it when Taylor Fedun got a backhand on net. Barra stopped the initial shot and a rebound by Matt Nieto before Tierney knocked the loose puck in for his fifth goal of the season.

Less than a minute later, the Avalanche capitalized on a delay-of-game penalty on Justin Braun to score their first goal when Duchene beat Stalock with a shot to the short side.

San Jose restored the two-goal lead 1:18 later when Couture stole the puck behind the net and fed Marleau in the slot for a one-timer.

“You build momentum with a goal,” Duchene said. “It was too bad that they were able to come right back and score.”

The game between two teams on the periphery of the postseason race lacked playoff intensity for most of the first two periods. Neither team generated many prime scoring chances, and there was little for the sellout crowd to cheer before the Sharks finally broke through late in the second period.

After an icing by Cody McLeod, Joe Pavelski won a faceoff in the offensive zone for San Jose. Brent Burns had two point shots blocked before getting a shot-pass through that Hannan deflected past Berra for his second goal of the season.

“It was a little boring there for a while,” Couture said. “It was nice to score one. Hanner made a great play, and so did Burnzie.”

NOTES: Sharks C Joe Thornton has gone six games without a point, his longest drought since early in the 1998-99 season. ... The Avalanche last won a regular-season game in San Jose on Feb. 6, 2008. They also won Game 1 of a 2010 first-round playoff series.