Then Alex Ovechkin finished them off.
Ovechkin scored twice in a 28-second span of the second period, and the Capitals ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory Thursday night.
The Sharks were called for five penalties in the opening 18 minutes. Although the first period ended in a 1-1 tie, San Jose was exhausted after being short-handed for nearly 9 minutes, including a pair of 5-on-3s.
"We were dead. It's too much to ask for guys to penalty kill for that long a time," center Joe Thornton said.
The Sharks got a power play early in the second period, but after that was done, Ovechkin took over. Both goals, fired from the slot, were set up by Mike Knuble. The first score came at 2:55, the second at 3:23.
Brendan Morrison received the second assist on each goal, which came against a withering San Jose defense.
"With all the penalties, all their best players played an awful lot in the first period and they didn't have the energy to maybe push when they got down," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Ovechkin's two goals gave him an NHL-high seven in seven games. The Sharks were the only NHL team he had never scored a goal against.
"Well, he has now," Boudreau said. "Brett Favre never won against Green Bay, either, and now he's won."
Alexander Semin and Matt Bradley also scored for the Capitals, who had lost 11 straight to San Jose since February 1999. Evgeni Nabokov was 8-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average lifetime versus Washington before taking the loss in this one.
"Nabby was fine. I can't blame him on any goals," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
Washington's four-game skid was its longest since November 2007. All four defeats were by one goal; one was in overtime and another in a shootout.
"It's better to lose games right now than when it's more important," Ovechkin said.
Bradley's goal made it 4-1 with 14:49 left.
Benn Ferriero scored for the Sharks, who have only one goal in their last two games.
"We weren't in the game from the start," San Jose defenseman Rob Blake said. "We have five minors in the first period, second period, they scored two goals in a minute. Third period, when we should be the desperate team, we're on our heels. All around, it was a terrible effort."
Washington broke on top by converting their second two-man advantage of the opening period. Nicklas Backstrom passed across the crease to Semin, who scored from the left circle.
Ferriero scored off an excellent centering pass from Scott Nichol with 14:07 elapsed, pushing the Sharks into an improbable tie given the parade to the penalty box.
"The positive thing is that we handled it well, but the upsetting thing is we took five penalties," McLellan said. "That's a reflection of team speed. We played slow."
The Capitals recalled C Keith Aucoin from the Hershey Bears of the AHL. He saw limited action. ... San Jose went 0 for 3 on the power play and is 1 for 15 in its last four games. ... The Sharks had won six straight in Washington.