The “Shark Tank” has long been considered one of the more-intimidating rinks in the league, no doubt living up to its nickname, and it sure has haunted the Coyotes in recent seasons.

In their previous 13 trips to San Jose, the Coyotes had managed only three wins. Their last visit, on Oct. 5, was perhaps the most crippling as they were overwhelmed by the Sharks in a 4-1 loss.

With the importance of division games upped this season after realignment handed the top three teams in each division automatic playoff bids, the Coyotes needed a signature win against the Sharks in their building to earn some confidence and establish themselves as a front-runner in that race.

They accomplished both with a 3-2 shootout win in front of a sellout crowd of 17,562 on Saturday at SAP Center, and in doing so, the Coyotes issued the Sharks only their second regulation loss.

Center Antoine Vermette, who added a goal in regulation, scored in the fifth round of the shootout to deliver the game winner after goalie Mike Smith stopped wing Patrick Marleau on a five-hole attempt.

Smith was superb, his second straight strong outing against the Sharks, and he racked up 48 saves. The Coyotes gave up 50 shots, one less than they allowed in their previous against the Sharks, but the result made that total easier to swallow.

After the Sharks scored 46 seconds into their last meeting, it was the Coyotes turn to strike first. Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart tripped over wing Mikkel Boedker at the blue line, and wing Rob Klinkhammer scooped up the puck. He fed it to Vermette, who wristed a shot past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi 36 seconds in.

The Coyotes clung to that 1-0 lead for much of the period, with the Sharks finding most of their best scoring chances on a four-minute power play near the end of the period after wing Radim Vrbata was whistled for high-sticking.

Thanks to Smith, who was tracking the puck well amid traffic, the Sharks didn’t capitalize on the opportunity but finished the period outshooting the Coyotes 16-7.

That momentum translated into a Sharks goal 1:16 into the second. Center Joe Pavelski broke out for a two-on-one with wing Matthew Nieto, and Pavelski beat Smith glove-side. They went ahead 2-1 on a power play goal from defenseman Dan Boyle, who was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion Oct. 15, at 5:10.

But the Klinkhammer-Vermette-Boedker line answered back with a singular effort from Boedker after a slick defensive play.