Sharks win third straight to inch closer to first place

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Tomas Hertl scored his career-high 30th goal of the season, Martin Jones made 37 saves and the San Jose Sharks extended their two-decade home dominance over the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory Thursday night.

The Sharks haven't lost at home to the Canadiens since Nov. 23, 1999, winning 12 straight in that span. San Jose won its eighth straight overall in the series despite getting outplayed for much of the night.

Marcus Sorensen and Timo Meier each scored for the third game in a row, Joe Thornton also had a goal and Gustav Nyquist added an empty-netter for his first goal since joining the Sharks. San Jose pulled within one point of Calgary in the race for first place in the Pacific Division and has a game in hand.

Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw scored for the Canadiens, who remained two points ahead of Columbus in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Antti Niemi made 20 saves.

The Sharks have been dealing with a flu bug on the team in recent days and played a step slow against the Canadiens, but managed to win for the 11th time in their past 13 home games thanks to some soft goals and fortunate bounces.

They took a one-goal lead into the third and added an insurance goal when Meier got a pass in front from Joonas Donskoi and knocked it into an open net.

The teams had traded goals off odd deflections in the second period. Thornton's centering pass to Sorensen hit off the stick of Montreal's Phillip Danault and went into the net to put San Jose up 3-1 despite getting outshot 23-8 at that point.

But the Canadiens answered later in the period when Paul Byron's shot pinballed toward the net before hitting off Shaw and trickling past Jones to make it a one-goal game heading into the third.

The Canadiens controlled the play in the opening period, outshooting San Jose 16-5, but were on the short end of the scoreboard thanks to a couple soft goals allowed by Niemi. Hertl scored on a wraparound early in the period for his 30th goal of the season and Sorensen then beat Niemi to the short side midway through the period to make it 2-0.

Montreal struck late in the first when Lehkonen's centering pass got past Jones.

NOTES: San Jose's Brent Burns assisted on Sorensen's goal, giving him 60 on the season. The only defensemen to record 60 assists in a season since the start of the 1996-97 season are Nicklas Lidstrom (2005-05, 2007-08) and Erik Karlsson (2015-16). ... Karlsson (groin) and F Evander Kane (undisclosed) remained sidelined for a third straight game for the Sharks. ... Montreal rookie F Jesperi Kotkaniemi was a healthy scratch for a second straight game.

UP NEXT:

Montreal: Visit Anaheim on Friday.

San Jose: Host St. Louis on Saturday.

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