The final score stayed even, thanks to two goaltenders who didn’t make any mistakes in the final minutes.
Ekman had the first two-goal game of his career for San Jose, but the Colorado Avalanche rallied in the third period for a 2-2 tie with the Sharks on Thursday night.
Liles tied it with a rebound goal midway through the third period. Rob Blake also scored for the Avalanche, who have lost in regulation just twice in their last 15 games despite two indifferent periods.
“They played good for seven minutes, that’s it,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “We played good for the whole rest of the game. That’s the kind of effort you hope for.”
Vesa Toskala made 25 saves for the Sharks, who got a point for the ninth time in 10 games. The Sharks lead the NHL with nine ties, and this one felt good despite their late struggles.
Liles’ shoddy defense against Ekman’s short-handed charge led to San Jose’s first goal, but the rookie defenseman was left alone in the slot midway through the third period when Ekman failed to cover him. Liles put a rebound of Joe Sakic’s shot past Toskala for his second career goal.
The Avalanche dominated the final minutes of regulation, but Toskala made a series of remarkable saves to keep San Jose safe. Sakic nearly got a breakaway in the final seconds of overtime, but Scott Hannan dove to knock away the puck.
“We dig ourselves a 2-0 hole, and sometimes it takes you 50 or 60 minutes to get back into it,” Colorado coach Tony Granato said. “We didn’t play great the first 40 minutes, but we stuck around to salvage a point out of it. Once we fell behind, David (Aebischer) made some big saves for us.”
Aebischer, who also made 25 saves, was at his best in the second period. He stemmed a prolonged push by the Sharks, stopping several flurries and leaping to cover up a puck during a scramble.
“I thought both goalies played very well,” Sakic said. “We had a good first period. We were just down 2-0. We battled back again, and that’s a good sign.”
Toskala has been outstanding in relief of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov, going 4-0-3 with a 1.77 goals-against average in November.
“He hasn’t made many mistakes since he’s had the opportunity to play, and he’s been great,” Wilson said.
Though the third-period struggles were disappointing, San Jose’s surprising surge continued with a good effort against a perennial powerhouse. The Sharks are 5-1-3-1 in their 10 games since a 3-2 loss to Colorado on Nov. 11.
Ekman scored just 3:42 into the game, easily shoving past Liles to put Wayne Primeau’s shot into an open net.
Ekman scored again eight minutes later, skating alone up the right side and beating Aebischer cleanly between the pads for his sixth goal of the year.
“I was trying to surprise him—skating up, trying not to show him I was going to shoot the puck,” Ekman said. “Sometimes it works.”
Ekman has been a revelation for the Sharks, who acquired him from the New York Rangers last July in a swap of minor leaguers. Ekman scored nine goals with Tampa Bay in the 2000-01 season, but after a year with Djurgarden in his native Sweden, he spent all of last season with the Rangers’ top affiliate in Hartford.
Teemu Selanne, who scored the winning goal in his return to San Jose last month, assisted on Blake’s goal and absorbed a series of hard hits by defenseman Kyle McLaren. The Finnish Flash was booed constantly, but withoutthe same vigor of last month.
D Adam Foote missed the game for Colorado with an apparent case of the flu. F Alex Korolyuk returned to the Sharks’ lineup after missing six games with a leg injury. … Nabokov could be back in uniform for the Sharks’ home game against Dallas on Saturday. Wilson doesn’t expect Nabokov to see game action until next week, however. … Selanne has 37 goals and 37 assists in 43games against the Sharks.