Couture fights through illness to push Sharks over Lightning

Couture fights through illness to push Sharks over Lightning

SAN JOSE – Logan Couture didn’t skate against the Kings on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, but that sure didn’t mean he was feeling all that energetic to play against the Lightning on Thursday.

The 27-year-old center had a pretty rough start to his week. He was unable to finish Monday’s game against Winnipeg, and then couldn’t go on the quick road trip to Southern California on Tuesday, either.

We’ll let him explain.

"I wasn't feeling too well during the [Winnipeg] game, had an IV during that game, and came off. Didn't have enough energy to finish that game. Went home. Started throwing up a bunch and actually went to the hospital, got a couple more IVs. Slept that night, didn't make it through the night, threw up a couple more times. Didn't really get any sleep, so I talked to [Sharks trainer Ray Tufts] and he told me to stay home, and not come on the trip.
 
"Didn't get any food in my throat for about 48 hours. It was a tough little stretch, and finally yesterday I was able to get back to normal. I think it was just a stomach bug, but it hit pretty hard. I think I lost six pounds. So, it was a tough couple days.”

Despite all that, Couture managed to have an impact in the Sharks’ 2-1 win over the Lightning. And not just a minor impact, either, as he scored the game-winning goal early in the third period in a game in which the Sharks as a team were understandably sluggish at times but still found a way.

"I thought he was excellent. Gutsy effort by him coming back in,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who slightly limited Couture’s minutes.

The winning goal came when Couture’s linemates, Kevin Labanc and Joonas Donskoi, fought for a loose puck behind the Tampa Bay net. Labanc managed to poke it to Couture, who had pushed away from Tyler Johnson and found just enough space inside the far post with his shot to break a 1-1 tie on the opening shift of the third period.

Goalie Aaron Dell made it hold up, making some clutch third period saves on Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula, in particular.

After allowing a bad goal in Calgary last week that cost the Sharks at least one point in the standings, Dell was outstanding on a night that his teammates needed him.

"I've given up a lot of goals in my life. I think it's pretty easy to let it go now, but I really wanted to come back and make a good impression after that,” he said.

Ryan Carpenter, familiar with Dell from their days on the Barracuda together last season, said: “He made some big saves tonight. That’s just what he does. Whenever he plays, he always does well somehow. It’s nice to be a part of it, and see him get that one tonight.”

Carpenter played a role, too, getting the Sharks a 1-0 lead with his second career NHL goal five minutes into the middle frame. He was the beneficiary of a long shift by the Sharks in the Tampa Bay end, firing in a Paul Martin feed off of Nikita Nesterov’s leg.

"That was just off a line change,” DeBoer said. “He got out there a little bit early and made a great play. Big goal for us."

The Sharks were in survival mode earlier in the game, one day after recording one of their more satisfying, complete wins of the season over the rival Kings. Tampa Bay recorded eight of the first nine shots on goal, and San Jose was having particular trouble moving the puck out of their own end and through the neutral zone. 

After Carpenter’s goal, and a remarkable power play score by Jonathan Drouin tied it, the message in the dressing room in the second intermission was to go out and win the third period.

"Guys did a good job in the locker room going out in the third and just understanding what’s at stake," Joe Pavelski said. "There’s two big points, it doesn’t matter your opponent that you’re playing, you’ve got to go find it."

They did, courtesy of Couture, even if his pads were a little looser than normal from his sudden and unexpected diet.

Instant Replay: Sharks sweep back-to-back with win over Lightning

Instant Replay: Sharks sweep back-to-back with win over Lightning

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – After missing his first game of the season, Logan Couture returned to the lineup to score the game-winning goal as the Sharks downed the Lightning at SAP Center, 2-1, on Thursday night.

Couture, who was too sick to play against the Kings on Wednesday, got his 15th of the season early in the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Linemate Kevin Labanc fished a puck out from along the end wall, while Couture got just enough of the puck to squeeze it through Andrei Vasilevskiy just 22 seconds into the final frame.

Backup goalie Aaron Dell made 24 saves, as the scuffling Lightning were held to two or fewer goals for the seventh time in their last eight games.

In the third period, Dell stopped Ondrej Palat with about 13 minutes left, getting his right pad on the Tampa Bay forward’s attempt from between the circles. He stretched to deny Valtteri Filppula’s wraparound try with less than seven minutes to go, preserving the Sharks’ slim lead.

The Sharks improved to 5-2-0 in their last seven games, and swept the two-game season series with the Lightning. San Jose is 16-6-0 overall against teams from the Eastern Conference.

After a dull first period, the pace picked up in the second as the teams traded scores.

Ryan Carpenter put San Jose ahead at 5:01, as his slap shot from the circle directed in off of Nikita Nesterov’s leg for his second career NHL score. The rookie was recalled on Tuesday after a brief stint with the Sharks in November, and was playing in just his fifth game this season.

Tampa Bay responded with a gorgeous power play score by Jonathan Drouin less than two minutes later. The 21-year-old took the puck from the neutral zone and charged ahead, going right around a flat-footed Marc-Edouard Vlasic and slipping it past Dell at 6:51.

Along with Couture’s return, Joonas Donskoi also played after missing the previous three games with an upper body injury.

The Sharks won the only other game between the two teams on Nov. 12 in Tampa Bay, 3-1.

San Jose improved to 5-3-0 in the second of back-to-backs.

Special teams

The Sharks had just one power play midway through the third period, and did not score.

The Lightning brought the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play into the game, although they hadn’t scored in their previous three games. They finished 1-for-3.

In goal

Dell was starting for the second time in nine days, the shortest length time off he’s had between games this season. He improved to 5-2-0 in his first NHL season, and has allowed two or fewer goals in five of his seven starts.

Vasilevskiy fell to 10-11-2 on the season, allowing two Sharks goals on 24 shots.

Lineup

Rookie Timo Meier was scratched for the first time since he was recalled in mid-December, dealing with what the team called a minor upper body injury. Micheal Haley was surprisingly placed on injured reserve before the game with an lower body injury. Mikkel Boedker was benched for the third period.

Tampa Bay remains without Steven Stamkos, who has been out since mid-November with a torn miniscus, while top defenseman Victor Hedman missed his third straight due to illness.

Up next

A pair of games against the putrid Avalanche, who are buried in last place in the Central Division and are the worst team in the NHL, is up next for San Jose. Saturday marks the SAP Center return of Matt Nieto, who was claimed off of waivers from the Sharks on Jan. 5.

The Sharks visit Pepsi Center on Monday for the second of the home-and-home, are in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and play their final game before the All-Star break at home next Thursday against Edmonton.

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Lightning in second of back-to-back

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Lightning in second of back-to-back

Programming note – Sharks-Lightning coverage starts today at 7:00 on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 27-16-2, 56 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Lightning: 21-20-5, 47 points, 6th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After missing Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles due to illness, Logan Couture could return against the Lightning. According to coach Pete DeBoer, Couture is feeling “good. Talked to him this morning at the rink. Went for a little skate. Looks good, but we won’t know until game time.”

Joonas Donskoi, who has missed the last three games with an upper body injury, will also be a game-time decision.

***Aaron Dell will make his second start in a little more than a week, getting back in shortly after a 3-2 loss in Calgary on Jan. 11. The game winner came from Dougie Hamilton from a sharp angle with 2:19 to go, on what was a stoppable shot.

“I think [Dell's] body of work has been real good. That could happen to anybody,” DeBoer said of the Hamilton goal. “I didn’t think he had a poor game that night. It’s going to happen. This isn’t like you need to see a bounce back effort, or anything like that. We’re comfortable with what he brings. I know he’s excited to play, and he’s played well for us.”

***The Lightning are just 2-5-1 in their last eight games, and are in the midst of a six-game road swing. It started with a win over the Kings on Monday, 2-1, and was followed by a 2-1 overtime loss in Anaheim on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has scored two or fewer goals in six of its last seven, but also brings the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play (22.9 percent) into tonight’s contest.

Top defenseman Victor Hedman reportedly remains out tonight with an illness. It will be his third straight game out of the lineup. He leads the league among blueliners with 31 assists, and his 38 points trails only Brent Burns (46).

***San Jose beat the Lightning in the only other game of the season series on Nov. 12 in Tampa Bay, 3-1. The Sharks are 4-3-0 this season in the second of back-to-back games, and 15-6-0 against the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay is just 3-8-2 against the Western Conference.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Tommy Wingels. Although he’s found it difficult to stay in the lineup on a nightly basis this season, Wingels has managed to contribute recently, including a goal against the Kings on Wednesday. The 28-year-old fourth liner has one point in three of his last six games, despite being scratched for seven of the last 12 overall. He’s had success against the Lightning, too, with four goals and seven points in eight career games.

Lightning: Jonathan Drouin. The forward saw a five-game point streak come to an end on Jan. 17, but has at least one point in eight of his last 10 games overall. After a misguided decision last season in which he demanded a trade that never happened, Drouin, 21, is third on the Lightning in scoring with 29 points (13g, 16a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Patrick Marleau – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Ryan Carpenter – Tommy Wingels

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Lightning
Ondrej Palat – Vlad Namestnikov – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn – Tyler Johnson – Joel Vermin
Brian Boyle – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Drouin
Michael Bournival – Cedric Paquette – Gabriel Dumont

Nikita Nesterov – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn – Luke Witkowski

Andrei Vasilevskiy (starter)
Ben Bishop

INJURIES

Sharks: Logan Couture (illness) and Joonas Donskoi (upper body) are questionable. Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are on injured reserve.

Lightning: Steven Stamkos (torn meniscus), Brayden Point (upper body), J.T. Brown (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body) and Victor Hedman (illness) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I think we’ve been saying all year our job is to try and be in their end and get a good forecheck. Luckily of late we’ve been getting some points, so that’s good.” – Micheal Haley, on the recent play of the Sharks’ fourth line.