Sharks quietly confident heading into Game 5
Joe Thornton (left) has nine points, including five power play points, and is +6 during the playoffs. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – Maybe Joe Thornton got a little envious of all the publicity Logan Couture was getting throughout the Sharks’ playoff run. Perhaps there was an extra shot of espresso in his pregame Americano. Or, maybe he just wanted to do whatever he could to ensure that San Jose returned to Los Angeles with its second round series tied at two.
Whatever it was, Thornton was dominant in every facet of the game, especially early, in helping the Sharks down the Kings, 2-1, in Game 4 at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night. Game 5 is Thursday night at Staples Center.
He talked about his game, and first period in particular, on Tuesday night.
“Just work hard. That’s all our team is trying to do, is just work hard. Just get the battle level up, that’s what you take out of tonight’s game. Work hard, and see what happens.”
When pressed a little more about his personal game, he said: “I’ve been feeling good. The coaches have given us a lot of rest, so once game time comes, I think a lot of guys are feeling good and feeling like they have a lot of energy that night.”
As pointed out by a number of tweeters, as well as the NHL’s day-after press release, Thornton has been on the ice for a remarkable 17 Sharks goals and just one goal against. He has a goal and eight assists for nine points, including five points on the power play, and owns a team-best +6 rating. He assisted on the Sharks’ first goal on Tuesday night, and is third in the league in that category.
He set up Burns to give the Sharks an early lead. It was the line’s first goal of the tight-checking series against the Kings, and included TJ Galiardi’s first postseason point.
“After the first shot (by Burns), the puck just came right back to me,” Thornton said. “He was open again, and just made a beautiful shot upstairs.”
Burns said: “Obviously, he played a great game tonight. When he can hold onto the puck and you can get open, you know he’s going to find you.”
Coach Todd McLellan hopes that Thornton can repeat that performance in Game 5 and beyond.
“We were commenting after the game on how well he skated and powered his way though a lot of people,” he said. “That’s a really good sign for him individually, and us as a team. Tomorrow is a new day, he’ll get some rest, and he’s got to bring those legs again.”
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For the second straight game, the Sharks held their breath when Couture appeared to be shaken up.
Early in the second period, Couture came together with Dustin Brown. The center immediately left the ice, and was hunched over for a few moments in the tunnel before returning to the bench.
He gave his perspective of the play after the game, accusing Brown of embellishment.
“[Brown] saw me. I wasn’t looking, he saw me and hit me, and dove after the hit to make it look like he ran into me," Couture said. "That’s the way he plays.”
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The Sharks’ home power play remains the best in the NHL in the postseason, converting at a 37.5 percent clip (9-for-24).
On the road, it’s a different story. The Sharks are just 1-for-16 in four games (6.2 percent).
According to Elias, Couture’s five power play goals marks the first time a player has scored his first five postseason goals in one year on the power play since Mike Modano in 2008. He’s the third Sharks player with five power play goals in one playoff season (Mike Rathje, 1995; Joe Pavelski, 2010).
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Here’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s take on Dustin Penner’s disallowed second period goal, that by all accounts should have counted (via LAKingsInsider.com).
“Well, I’m sure it’s in the rule book. When the whistle goes, right? So what are they going to come and tell us? They’re going to come and say they lost sight of the puck, and they blew the whistle,” Sutter said.
Here was Mike Richards’ take on the game as a whole:
“We obviously didn’t have a start that we wanted to. Just turning pucks over, and slow moving. I think I got my pocket picked about three times in one shift, which is a little bit embarrassing. It just shows that you can’t play a half a hockey [game] in the playoffs.
“I thought we did some good things in the second half of the game, and it’s something that we have to carry over Thursday night at home.”
The Kings are just 1-4 on the road in the playoffs this year, after going 10-1 on their way to the Stanley Cup last season.