The Sharks rediscovered their bite Tuesday when they most needed it, fending off repeated rallies by the Ducks as they halved the Ducks' lead in their first-round playoff series.
Patrick Marleau's power-play goal at 10:33 of the third period proved decisive as the top-seeded Sharks clawed out a 4-3 victory at the Honda Center and cut the eighth-seeded Ducks' best-of-seven series lead to 2-1.
"I believe our effort and intensity have grown as the playoffs have gone on," Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said. "And 2-1 is a lot better than 3-0. The outlook is a lot better now, but we're still a game behind and we have to take it up a notch."
The road team has won each game this series. The Sharks have a chance to continue that in Game 4 at Anaheim on Thursday.
Playing before a non-sellout crowd of 16,277 that included a large number of Sharks fans, the visitors played their most complete game of the series and dented the Ducks' previously perfect penalty killing. Corey Perry, sent off for hooking Dan Boyle at 9:07 of the third period, stayed in the box a few extra seconds with his head hanging down after Marleau redirected a pass from Rob Blake beyond Jonas Hiller's glove to give the Sharks their fourth and final lead of the game.
"I don't know why we have to take these penalties," Teemu Selanne said. "It's like hitting yourself in the head. There's no team in the league that gets 20 power plays in three games and is not going to score. If you don't learn that, you're stupid."
The Ducks had managed to pull even each of the previous three times the Sharks had gone ahead, but they couldn't do it again.
The Ducks' penalty-killing streak ended in the first period when the Sharks scored on their second power play of the game and 14th of the series. And the Ducks, despite being on the short end of a 20-8 shot total, emerged from the first period even at 2-2.
The Sharks' energy was apparent from the outset and barely slowed when Marleau got a double-minor for high-sticking 17 seconds into the game.
Hiller had to stop a two-on-one break by the Sharks just before Ryan Getzlaf was sent off for hooking, at the 35-second mark.
With emotions running high, referees Mike Hasenfratz and Don VanMassenhoven called the game closely. That produced nine penalties in the first period, including fighting majors against San Jose's Douglas Murray and the Ducks' George Parros near the end of the period.
The teams were skating four on four when the Sharks scored their first goal, a play made possible after Drew Miller gave the puck away in the Ducks' zone. Rob Blake took a shot that caromed in front and went into the net off Miller's left foot at 5:34.
The Sharks nearly scored again at 7:19 while Chris Pronger was serving a holding penalty.
Boyle took a shot that glanced off the post and behind Hiller, who needed an instant to find it and cover it.
The Ducks tied it at 11:12 during a power play they gained when Joe Pavelski was sent off for tripping Miller. Bobby Ryan had thrown the puck in front of the net and got a good bounce when it caromed in off Nabokov's left leg. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Whitney got the assists.
The Sharks surged ahead again at 13:07, with Getzlaf in the penalty box. Boyle was alone by the left post to tap in a loose puck and end the Ducks' penalty-killing streak.
The Ducks tied it at 2-2 at 14:50. Devin Setoguchi turned the puck over in his own zone and James Wisniewski pounced on it, taking a hard shot from just above the right circle that darted over Nabokov's right shoulder. The goal was the first in postseason play for Wisniewski, a late-season pickup by the Ducks who has bolstered their blue line with his enthusiasm and fearlessness.
The Sharks went ahead, 3-2, at 1:05 of the second period, after Boyle capped a scramble by venturing deep into the zone to take a short shot that eluded Hiller.
The Ducks, still being outshot, matched that at 11:50 on a play that developed off a battle for the puck along the left-wing boards. Pavelski, trying to clear it, instead sent it into open ice in his own zone, and Pronger skated in from the blue line to rip a shot past Nabokov for his 21st career playoff goal.
Through two periods, the Sharks held a 28-21 edge in shots but they took only two in the final 12-plus minutes of the period. The Ducks were gaining strength as the second period ended, perhaps sensing how close they were to taking a prohibitive lead in the series.
The Ducks tested Nabokov early in the third period but the Sharks' goaltender prevailed. The Ducks' best chance resulted from a pass by Selanne, streaking up the right wing, to defenseman Scott Niedermayer, dashing up the left side, but Nabokov somehow stopped it.
And so the Ducks were left to think of missed opportunities -- and to hope they didn't miss a chance to take firm control of this series.