The San Jose Sharks capped a torrid run less than two weeks ago by moving into first place in the Pacific Division for the first time in more than three months.
They haven’t been able to maintain that level of play, however, having since relinquished that top spot.
San Jose will try to snap out of its slump when it hosts the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
The Sharks (47-20-9) trailed by Anaheim by 13 points in mid-January but closed an 11-2-1 stretch with a 3-2 home victory over the Ducks on March 20, putting them alone in first place for the first time since Dec. 6.
They’ve dropped four of five since, including losses to Western Conference also-rans Calgary and Winnipeg.
A 3-2 defeat at Colorado on Saturday coupled with Anaheim’s win in Vancouver dropped the Sharks behind the Ducks. San Jose is also four points behind conference-leading St. Louis.
"I think we all know what we’re playing for. We want that home ice (advantage) as much as anybody around the league," forward Joe Pavelski said. "But we’re going to play our best, try to get our game to where we need it to be and then go from there. We have to stay the course."
San Jose lost despite outshooting the Avalanche 49-22 while also having 25 shots blocked. Pavelski scored a power-play goal in the first period and Dan Boyle added his 10th goal in the second, but San Jose squandered three power-play chances in the third period as Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov turned away 19 of 20 shots in the final 20 minutes.
San Jose has gone 6 for 11 with the man advantage over the past three games and has averaged 37.9 shots in its last seven – it averages a league-high 35.0 – but has scored three or fewer goals in seven of the past eight.
The Sharks’ only win in the last five was a 5-2 victory in Edmonton last Tuesday, their third in four meetings this season and seventh in the last eight matchups overall. Pavelski recorded his third career hat trick – all this season – while Joe Thornton and Brent Burns each had two assists. Patrick Marleau added a goal and an assist.
The Oilers (26-40-9) have the fewest points in the West and their 12 road wins are second fewest in the NHL. They’ve dropped four of five following Sunday’s 5-0 home loss to the New York Rangers, which marked the third time in five games they’ve allowed five-plus goals.
Edmonton surrendered two short-handed goals and has allowed a league-worst 13.
"We’ve given up the most short-handed goals this season and it’s something that we can’t afford to do," said center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has 16 goals but has scored once in his last 21 contests.
Edmonton has been shut out nine times, tied for second in the league.
Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in last week’s matchup after recording a goal and two assists in the Oilers’ 3-0 home win over San Jose on Jan. 29.
Pavelski has five goals and two assists in the teams’ four meetings this season. Thornton has recorded four goals and 26 assists in his last 19 against Edmonton.