Down two goals in third, Sharks force OT, win in shootout
Logan Couture has nine goals against the Oilers in just 11 games, the most he’s scored against any single opponent. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
EDMONTON – It sure sounds as if Logan Couture is little tired of hearing about all of the young studs on the Edmonton Oilers’ roster.
After all, at just 23 years old, the dynamic forward is one of the rising stars in the league in his own right. Lately, he’s showing why, with two goals in regulation and one more in the shootout in a 4-3 win at Rexall Place on Wednesday night.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 4, Oilers 3 (SO)]
Couture has eight goals and three assists for 11 points in his last 12 games.
“I’m a Canadian kid, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada and turning on TSN or SportsNet or the Score,” Couture said. “Everything’s all [Taylor] Hall, [Justin] Schultz, [Jordan] Eberle, [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins, [Nail] Yakupov. It’s nice to come back and score a couple here.”
It’s more than just a couple. Couture has nine goals against the Oilers in just 11 games, the most he’s scored against any single opponent.
“He gets excited to play here in Edmonton, I don’t know why,” Todd McLellan said. “Six shots on goal, a couple goals, an amazing shot in the shootout. I’m really proud of him, and happy to have him.”
Couture’s power play goal in the third period brought the Sharks back to within 3-2, after they fell behind by two on Ryan Jones’ marker at 4:07 of the final frame. Tommy Wingels tied the game just over two minutes later, allowing the Sharks to get the extra point in the shootout and avoid what would have been a devastating regulation defeat.
In the shootout, Couture was San Jose’s second shooter. The Sharks trailed 1-0 after Eberle’s goal on Antti Niemi, so it was critical that Couture come through. He skated in on Devan Dubnyk and let his quick wrists to the rest, firing it high into the top corner past the enormous Edmonton goalie.
“Try to get some speed, get him deep in the net, and go high. That’s what I was thinking of doing beforehand,” Couture said.
Niemi stopped Ales Hemsky, and Dan Boyle put it away with a fancy deke on Dubnyk to give the Sharks just their second road win in the last nine games (2-6-1).
A couple of weeks ago, the Sharks would have been dead in the water after falling behind by two goals that late. From Jan. 29 through March 9, the Sharks scored three regulation goals just once in 17 games.
Although victories have still been hard to come by – the Sharks have consecutive wins just once since Feb. 1 – the scoring is picking up. San Jose has now reached the three-goal plateau four times in its last seven games.
Depth scoring from guys like Wingels, who fired a beautiful shot inside the post to tie it in the third period, will continue to be of utmost importance and could determine whether or not the Sharks make it to the postseason.
“Guys like Tommy stepping up tonight, we just need different guys to step up each and every night, and if we do that we’re going to win some games,” Joe Thornton said.
Wingels, who failed to convert on a penalty shot in a 5-2 loss in Los Angeles on Saturday, said: “It felt good, obviously, to help the team out. We’ve said all year, if we can get depth scoring from our depth third and fourth lines, this team can do something.”
The power play has also improved by leaps and bounds. The Sharks have scored at least one power play goal in four of the last five games, including on Wednesday, when Couture fired in a pass from Boyle. The power play is 5-for-13 in the last five games.
That unit is much more confident lately, according to McLellan. At one point, the Sharks were just 3-for-59 with a man advantage over a 14-game span from Jan. 29 through Feb. 28.
“Now, when the guys jump on the ice, there’s a real belief that we’re going to get one,” he said. “For awhile, it went so long that the players question themselves. You can feel it on the bench. Now, there’s a belief that it can go in. I don’t know if we’re doing a lot of things [different] than in the midway point of the season, but it’s just finding its way in.”
Couture said: “During that stretch there, we weren’t getting anything on the power play. You get one or two on the power play, and it will help.”
The Oilers scored what could have been a backbreaking goal on Jones’ marker. He stripped the puck from Matt Irwin behind the net before slipping it through Niemi, who wasn’t prepared for the shot.
Ryan Whitney’s interference penalty at 6:12 gave the Sharks just their second power play of the game, though, and Couture made it count.
“We thought as the night went on, we were going to get one or two more power plays, and when we did we had to capitalize,” Thornton said.
McLellan was glad to see his team keep fighting after Jones’ goal.
“There was a little bit of a sag there in the third period when they got the wraparound goal, but we had no choice but to stick with the plan,” he said. “Nice to see us come back to see the guys score. Tommy Wingels hasn’t scored in awhile, so for him to get one, and us to stick with it, is a big win for us.”
The two points allowed the Sharks (13-10-6, 32 points) to maintain their hold on the eighth and final playoff spot, as they prepare for a tough slate of games on the horizon. The Sharks visit Minnesota, winners of six of seven, on Saturday afternoon, and a home-and-home with the Ducks follows.
“It’s a battle every night,” Couture said. “There are no easy points in this conference, every single team is so good. To win the way we were able to, to come back there in the third with two goals, hopefully that can get us going in the right direction. We need something.”
On Wednesday, they had him.