SAN JOSE -- When the first period ended Thursday night at SAP Center, the San Jose Sharks trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins by two goals, not a good situation to be in when you're playing a team that was 20-1-1 when leading after 20 minutes.
Instead of panicking, the Sharks began hitting seemingly every Penguin in sight and powered their way to a 5-3 victory.
It was the Sharks' 11th straight win on home ice against the Penguins. But they hadn't won a game when trailing by two or more goals after the first period since Nov. 3, 2011 -- when they rallied to beat the Penguins 4-3 in a shootout.
"I thought that's as physical as we've played in a while," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We were really engaged, and it's not about running out of position and big hits. It's about body position, playing on the inside, knocking people off 50-50 pucks, playing around the opposition's net, even in front of our net. It's nice to get rewarded for that type of effort."
"Raffi [Torres] was effective. I thought Brent Burns, that's as physical as I've seen him play and maybe one of his best games that I've seen him play. One goes with the other. He scored two goals tonight because he was a force, almost a bully out there on the ice. He needs to bring that every night because he could be a very effective guy that way."
Burns had a game-high five hits. Torres had four. In all, San Jose outhit the Penguins 30-14.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton scored the game-winner at 14:21 of the third period, firing a harmless-looking wrist shot from just inside the blue line near the left boards that sailed past rookie goaltender Jeff Zatkoff high to the far side. Burns added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds left.
"We got physical and that just totally turned the game," Thornton said. "Everybody got into it after the big hits. Throwing the body around just changed everything."
Pittsburgh hasn't won at San Jose since Oct. 22, 1997. The Penguins have gone 0-9-2 in 11 visits to San Jose since then.
Justin Braun and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks, and Antti Niemi made 19 saves.
Maatta scored two goals for the Penguins, who took a 2-1 lead into what quickly turned into a wild final period as the Sharks continue throwing their big bodies around.
"They played not only physical but a fast game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They tried to counter quickly and get to the offensive zone. In the second half we were not able to negate that by playing in our zone."
The Penguins led 2-1 when San Jose's Matt Nieto drew a double minor for high sticking early in the third period, But Marleau tied the game when he scored a shorthanded goal at 5:18 on a breakaway. Jason Demers intercepted a pass and sent a perfect outlet feed up to the speedy Marleau, who raced past Evgeni Malkin and fired the puck past Zatkoff and inside the left post.
The Penguins answered 21 seconds later when Maatta scored his second goal of the game, this one on the power play, to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead. But San Jose pulled even again 73 seconds later when Burns took a pass from Joe Pavelski in the slot and hammered a one-timer past Zatkoff for his 16th goal of the season.
"I think some games that physical ball keeps rolling," Burns said. "We have a team that can do that. Obviously you see the energy on the bench. It's a fun game to be a part of."
Well, maybe more fun for the Sharks.
"They're physical and we didn't get a lot of time in the offensive zone," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has yet to score in six career games against the Sharks and was minus-5 on Thursday. "We're on a four-minute power play. We can't give a goal. That's a big goal for them."
Zatkoff made his first start since Jan. 30, ending a string of seven straight starts by Marc-Andre Fleury. He stopped 42 shots as his seven-game winning streak came to an end.
One day after being acquired by Pittsburgh in trades, forwards Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc made their Penguins debuts. Stempniak played right wing on the third line with center Brandon Sutter and left wing Taylor Pyatt. Goc centered the fourth line between Tanner Glass and Craig Adams.
Goc earned his first assist with the Penguins on Glass' first-period goal, as well as his first penalty, getting two minutes for diving in the second period. He had two hits and won seven of 13 faceoffs in 11:03 of ice time. Stempniak have one giveaway, one takeaway and one blocked shot in 15:08.
Entering the game, San Jose had scored an NHL-leading 63 goals and allowed a League-low 35 in the first period, but the Penguins led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Maatta gave the Penguins the lead at 15:09, ripping a rebound from just in front of the crease past Niemi after a shot by Glass from above the circle. Niemi had gone behind his net and sent an errant pass along the boards that Pittsburgh controlled, then compounded his problems when he failed to control the rebound after Glass' long shot.
With Burns in the penalty box for roughing Rob Scuderi, Kunitz scored a power-play goal at 16:21 for a 2-0 lead. Malkin chased down a loose puck and sent it to the low slot to a wide-open Kunitz, who blasted a shot past Niemi just inside the left post, igniting a loud chant of "Let's Go Pens" from the Pittsburgh fans in the sellout crowd.
"We still believed," McLellan said. "We didn't think we were playing poorly, was the big thing. When we came in between periods we made one or two little adjustments we thought we needed to going into the second and third. It helped us. But never lost hope. If it gets to three then who knows what happens. But guys played hard, stuck with it."
The Sharks played like a desperate team in the second period, when they outshot the Penguins 18-8 and outhit them 10-2 as Torres and Demers each delivered big blows. Their pressure finally paid off at 17:43 when Braun scored on a shot from the point, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1. Tommy Wingels tracked down a loose puck behind the net and was in front of the net, along with Adam Burish, when Braun fired a shot through traffic that got past Zatkoff. Wingels and Andrew Desjardins got the assists.
"It was awesome," Demers said of the game. "Playoff hockey, it was hard, it was dirty, it was everything. Refs really managed it well. They made a lot of good calls and let it go when they should. Both teams played hard. Their goalie played great. I think both teams played great games and we came out on top. It was a nice shot by [Thornton] there for the win. It was just one of those games they are just great to play. You love playing those games and I'm sure it was great to watch, too."
Kunitz was shaken up in the second period but returned after missing a few shifts. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and missed the rest of the game after logging 4:20 of ice time. Bylsma said Bortuzzo would be evaluated Friday.