McLellan: 'The goaltender did his thing again'
Dan Boyle's third period goal was the game winner in the Sharks' 3-1 win over Vancouver.
VANCOUVER – Hopefully, Tommy Wingels had a brief but friendly conversation with teammate Dan Boyle after the media vacated the Sharks’ locker room on Wednesday night.
Wingels battled for the puck with Vancouver’s Derek Roy and Dan Hamhuis at the side of the net after Joe Pavelski sent it towards the crease, and managed to get just enough of it to an open Boyle, who lifted in the game-winner at 9:17 of the third period. The goal broke a 1-1 tie and the Sharks went on to win Game 1 of their first round series with Vancouver at Rogers Arena, 3-1.
After the game, Boyle credited the “hockey gods” with the puck ending up on his tape for one of the easier goals he’ll ever score.
Although it might make for a better story, Wingels’ stick wasn’t touched by the divine. It was just good, old-fashioned hard work at the side of the net that was the key sequence in San Jose’s playoff opening win.
“A bit of a scrum, and I was able to poke it loose to the weak side,” Wingels said. “We knew [Roberto] Luongo was paddle down on his right side, so I just poked it over there, and Dan was there to put it in.”
Patrick Marleau added the insurance on a slick backhanded pass from behind the net by Logan Couture with 5:23 to go in regulation, as the Sharks pocketed a vitally important road win. San Jose has had trouble all season long winning away from HP Pavilion, but can take a commanding two-games-to-none lead when the series resumes on Friday.
If nothing else, the Sharks have seized home ice advantage. They were 17-2-5 at HP Pavilion in the regular season.
“All year the road hasn’t been kind to us, so to come in here and win Game 1 is huge,” Joe Thornton said. “Hopefully we’ll grab some confidence on the road from here on out.”
Couture scored a power play goal in the second period prior to setting up Marleau’s goal, tying the game at 1-1. Raffi Torres inadvertently put the puck in his own net earlier in the frame to give Vancouver the lead.
The Sharks showed good puck movement before their leading goal-scorer showed why he is one of the more dangerous snipers in the game when he has the puck in the slot.
Couture quickly got the shot off when Boyle found him, and before a sliding Ryan Kesler made it over in time. Kevin Bieksa may have been screening Luongo with 3:25 to go before the second intermission.
“I don’t know if Lou saw it,” Couture said. “I put it where I wanted to, though, so I was happy with that.”
It was even more satisfying in that Couture drew the unnecessary roughing penalty to Zack Kassian at the 16-minute mark, giving the Sharks the man advantage in the first place. Kassian hit Couture up high and was caught by an official on the kind of penalty that drives a coach crazy.
Couture said: “It’s always a nice one when the penalty is taken on you. Kassian hit me high, and the ref made a good call. It was good to score.”
Couture had 21 goals in the regular season, and Todd McLellan raved about the 24-year-old, as he’s done so often in recent weeks.
“Logan elevated his play again tonight,” McLellan said. “Very good in all three zones, was a catalyst on the power play, very good on the penalty kill. It sounds like we’re talking about a hell of a player, and that’s what he is.”
The Sharks had the early energy thanks to a buzzing power play in the first period. After Dale Weise was whistled for high-sticking at 2:36, San Jose fired seven shots on Luongo over the next two minutes, but could not get it past him.
The Vancouver goalie, who only learned he was starting for an ailing Cory Schneider on Wednesday morning, made a brilliant pad save on Marty Havlat and gloved a blast by Thornton to keep it scoreless.
Although they didn’t get on the board, the power play benefited San Jose in other ways, according to McLellan.
“I thought the power play early for us really gave us the momentum,” he said. “It got us going and got us into the series. Even later in the game where we needed that goal, we got it on the power play. That was a big part of it.”
Boyle agreed: “We had some good looks in that first period. … You’re looking for the power play to get momentum. You’re not going to score every time. [Couture] scores a huge goal in the second and that gets us back into it. You need the power play to come through, and we came through with a huge goal tonight.”
The Sharks were playing with a shortened bench for most of the night, as Havlat left midway through the first period and did not return.
“He was gone pretty early, and we had to juggle lines a lot," McLellan said. "I thought fatigue started to settle in with a few of our players, and we kept our shifts real short, and we won some faceoffs which allowed us to get fresh people on the ice, which was real important.”
The Sharks have won nine of the previous 14 series in their history in which they’ve taken a 1-0 lead. That won’t mean anything on Friday night at 7 p.m., of course.
“We’ve got some more work to do here in the next one,” Boyle said.
Chances are, he’ll credit Wingels by then for his work in the first one.