DENVER -- Marcel Goc had a playoff flashback and saw the future all at once.
"He scores the winner in here all the time," Sharks coach Ron Wilson marveled.
It was Goc who broke the Avs' hearts two years ago when he scored the series-winning goal at the Pepsi Center to eliminate Colorado in the second round of the playoffs.
Goc credited Mark Smith this time. Smith forced Budaj to make a pass up the boards, where Patrick Rissmiller picked up the puck and make a weak shot toward the net. Goc stuffed in the rebound at 2:48.
San Jose moved into a tie with eighth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference.
"I think this is a big win for us, we're coming down to it, so we are tied for eighth now, and this was a huge character win," Smith said.
The Sharks pulled within three points of Colorado, which was coming off an exhilarating win over Chicago 48 hours earlier. The Avs scored twice in the final minute to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Monday night, but this time there was no last-minute magic. Colorado failed to get off a shot after Budaj was pulled for an extra skater.
What really did in the Avs was the disparity in power plays: San Jose 8, Colorado 2.
Even though the Avalanche killed them all, it really wore them down.
"When you're on the power play you get the momentum rolling for you, even when you don't score," Avs forward Ian Laperriere said. "You drain the guys who are killing penalties."
Asked if he took issue with the officiating, Avs coach Joel Quenneville said: "If I really wanted to say what I felt right now, it wouldn't be good."
The Sharks had five power plays in the second period.
"That second period, as much time as we spent in our own zone, it was tough to generate things," Avs defenseman Rob Blake said.
And that sluggishness seeped into the third period.
San Jose's Vesa Toskala was flawless except for the goal he surrendered to Andrew Brunette when the puck bounced off his mask at 12:24 of the first period. He recorded 25 saves to improve to 18-7-4.
Joe Sakic stretched his point streak to 11 games with the assist on Brunette's goal. The Avs, who survived a 5-on-3 disadvantage early in the second period, clung to their 1-0 lead until Joe Thornton's rebound goal off Nils Ekman's shot with 2 1/2 minutes left in the second period.
"This late in the season, with the standings the way they are, it's going to be a roller coaster," Sakic said. "You win, you feel real good; when you lose, it's tough."
Budaj fell to 6-4-2 in 12 starts for the Avs since the trade of David Aebischer to Montreal for Jose Theodore, who is still recovering from a broken right heel. Theodore, injured seven weeks earlier, had his first full practice session with his new teammates on Tuesday but said he's not ready to suit up for a game and isn't sure when he will return.
Budaj said he knows that his own time in net is running out: "I'm pretty sure they're going to give him ice time and he's a great goaltender, so hopefully, he's going to help our team."
What they needed Wednesday night was fewer penalties.
- The Avalanche contributed a total of $1 million to 10 community charity groups in a pregame ceremony.
- The game marked the return of former University of Denver defenseman Matt Carle, a Hobey Baker Award finalist who signed with the Sharks on March 19.
- Sakic has eight goals and 13 assists during his streak.
- The Avs started the second and third periods short-handed because of penalties by Pierre Turgeon.