SAN JOSE — The opportunity to seize the Pacific Division lead slipped away from the Ducks on Thursday, when a criticized official's whistle and third-period breakdowns left them instead beaten by the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, at SAP Pavilion.
With one more game than San Jose (46-18-7) still remaining, the Ducks (45-18-7) responded with a game-on type mind-set following the defeat.
"We have 12 games left. We'll be tooth and nail in every one and they'll be the same," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's the way it always comes down."
San Jose's winning goal was scored by forward Brent Burns with 3 minutes 59 seconds remaining in the third after Sharks center Joe Thornton collected a wide shot next to the boards and delivered a perfect pass to Burns to beat Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.
Nearly eight minutes earlier, Thornton slammed a rebound off Andersen into the net.
"Two bad rebounds, put it right on their sticks both times …" a disappointed Andersen said. "Nothing I shouldn't be able to handle."
In between San Jose's goal, an official waved off an apparent Ducks goal, blowing the whistle for an apparent high stick on Ducks forward Corey Perry as the puck bounced off the top netting, fell downward and was pushed across the goal line by a herd of Sharks sliding into the net.
The NHL ruled the goal couldn't be reviewed because the whistle blew.
"He thought I hit it with it the high stick and obviously I didn't, you can see the replay," Perry said. "He sees the puck on top of the net, he thinks guys are going to hit at it. Obviously, I wasn't. But that's what he said."
The Ducks took a 2-1 lead early in the third when Teemu Selanne deflected in his first goal since Jan. 15 after he gathered a loose puck and fired at San Jose goalie Antti Niemi.
The Sharks tied it up when Thornton followed a Burns shot over a sprawling Andersen with 11:49 left in the third.
Ducks center Mathieu Perreault, who had a power-play goal overruled by a replay Tuesday, produced one officially to force a 1-1 tie with 2:20 left in the second period.
After Andersen made impressive saves on Burns and Logan Couture to preserve a one-goal deficit, the Sharks picked up two penalties within a 1:54 span, and defenseman Marc Edouard Vlasic's interference extended the man advantage.
Perreault was on Niemi's left side, exactly where a shot by Perry deflected off the goalie. Perreault blasted high, over Sharks defenseman Justin Braun into the net for his 15th goal.
Andersen then stuffed a breakaway by James Sheppard.
Anaheim's intention was to keep the Sharks from repeating their Dec. 29 home triumph over the Ducks, when San Jose scored twice in the first 10:07.
The plan was proceeding fine until Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa compounded his rattling hit on Sharks center Tommy Wingels by then pushing Wingels' face hard onto the glass, a roughing penalty that left Wingels holding his helmet in pain.
Then, 63 seconds later, Thornton, the NHL's second-ranked assists man, scooted a pass to Patrick Marleau on Andersen's right side, with Marleau scoring high to Andersen's right.
It was Thornton's 57th assist and Marleau's 29th goal.