Couture sets record in Sharks' 2-0 win over Caps


Couture sets record in Sharks' 2-0 win over Caps


Kevin Kurz

WASHINGTON Just when it seems like theres nothing more that can be said about Sharks rookie Logan Couture, he goes and does something eye-opening again.This time, it was his seemingly harmless wrist shot from the boards that broke a scoreless tie in helping San Jose to a 2-0 win over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. The victory stretches San Joses unbeaten-in-regulation streak to 8-0-1, and is the third win in as many games on the teams current road trip.Coutures eighth game-winning goal at 11:55 of the third period was the biggest play of the game.Hes very opportunistic. Some guys are just pure goal scorers, and hes got that, said Dan Boyle, who added an insurance marker for the Sharks a little more than two minutes after Coutures tally. Some of the goals you might do a double-take as to how the puck went in, but it finds a way. Hes just a natural goal scorer.Its getting to the point where you dont want to call him a rookie anymore because he plays big minutes and is scoring huge goals, said coach Todd McLellan.
VIDEO: Todd McLellan postgame
Truth be told, the shot was one that probably should have been stopped by Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Couture explained how he thought the tough-angle shot found the back of the net.I was going down on a tough angle and didnt see Kyle Wellwood, so I just fired it, he said. I think Neuvirth was thinking pass, because he didnt get down quick enough and it went through his five-hole.Couture certainly wasnt alone in contributing to the win. The Sharks played yet another defensively responsible game, and when there was the rare breakdown, goaltender Antti Niemi was there to make the save. The goaltender recorded his second straight shutout and fourth of the season by making 25 saves.Its been more than 134 minutes since Niemi and the Sharks have allowed a goal, in the third period of last Wednesdays game in Anaheim.Hes smothering pucks, and our D is doing a good job letting him see pucks, said Joe Thornton. Hes in a groove right now, so well keep riding him.Just as he did on Saturday in Boston, Niemi credited a strong presence in front of him in helping to keep the opposition scoring chances to a minimum.We kept doing what we did in Boston, blocking shots and being really tight in at the net, he said.It helped a little bit that the hockey gods were on the Sharks side, as well.Referee Wes McCauleys early whistle in the first period nullified a would-be goal by Washingtons Alex Semin, who was making his return to the Caps lineup after a 12-game absence with a groin injury. Semins shot from the circle hit Niemi, but trickled between the goalies pads and eventually off of his skate and in. McCauley, standing behind the net, thought the puck was frozen and blew it dead.It should have counted.It didnt go straight through; it was going really slow. I dont know how it happened, but of course after that situation you feel a little bit lucky, admitted Niemi.The Sharks outshot the Capitals 15-9 in the first period, but Washington had the better of the scoring chances. The second period was a little bit more buttoned-up than the wide open first, but the teams were still unable to find the back of the net. Washingtons David Steckel had the best chance late in the second, after a bad turnover by Jason Demers at the Sharks defensive blue line with just over a minute remaining. Steckel raced in on a breakaway, but was unable to get a handle on the puck after trying to deke Niemi.Other than the Demers turnover, though, the Sharks defense was nearly flawless. It was a total team effort, according to McLellan.Twenty players dressed, and 20 players contributed, he said. We had great contributions from the third and fourth lines and all six defensemen found a way to have strong nights.Still, the focal point after the game was Couture, who overtook Alex Ovechkin for the league-lead in game-winning goals despite being not all that noticeable through the first two periods.He just competes so hard every night, and to be a 21-year-old kid and so composed and so complete as a hockey player is very, very impressive.San Jose has an opportunity now in its next three games to keep moving up the standings, and currently trails Dallas by just one point for the Pacific Division lead with 64. The Sharks visit Columbus on Wednesday, New Jersey on Friday and Florida on Sunday all teams that are all out of playoff position.After ending the road trip in Nashville on Feb. 15, the Sharks will host these same Capitals in their first home game back on the West Coast on Feb. 17.Until then, the aim is to keep the current streak alive.As good as things are, I dont think you see anyone too excited here, said Boyle. Weve got a lot of work ahead of us. Even with the streak were on, were still right in the middle of everything.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Lowrie's big hit sparks A's, gets road trip started right

Lowrie's big hit sparks A's, gets road trip started right

NEW YORK — Jed Lowrie is the counterpoint to the A’s home run-crazed offensive attack.

Sure, the A’s switch-hitting second baseman can muscle up and clear the fence. But Lowrie’s approach is more about spraying base hits all around and using the whole field. He was at it again in Friday’s 4-1 A’s victory over the Yankees, going 3-for-4 and delivering an RBI single that snapped a scoreless tie in the eighth.

“I always have to carry his glove out to second for him because he’s always on base,” shortstop Adam Rosales said. “He looks really good at the plate right now, and he’s kind of just putting us on his back. It’s contagious to see a guy like that doing so well.”

Lowrie bumped his average up to .310 with Friday’s game. Until he grounded out in the sixth, he’d notched hits in seven consecutive at-bats dating back to Tuesday night. That streak fell one shy of the A’s record for most consecutive hits. Three players share the record at eight — Josh Reddick (in 2016), Dave Magadan (1997) and Brent Gates (1994).

“It’s all about the work,” said Lowrie, whose 15 doubles are tied for third in the AL. “Everything comes together when you’re seeing it well. I’m seeing it well but the approach hasn’t changed.”

With two runners aboard and two out in the eighth, Lowrie punched an RBI single to right off Tyler Clippard for the game’s first run. It was the breakthrough the A’s needed after they’d struck out 13 times in seven innings against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. Khris Davis followed Lowrie’s hit by beating out an infield single to score another run. Then Stephen Vogt added a two-run homer in top of the ninth to make it 4-0, and that provided some cushion as closer Santiago Casilla gave up a run and made things tenser than they should have been in the bottom half.

Davis, the most fearsome hitter in Oakland’s lineup, is thrilled to have a productive Lowrie batting in front of him as the No. 3 man.

“Somebody’s gotta hit .300,” Davis said. “All year he’s been our most consistent hitter and best hitter. I hope he keeps going.”

The A’s have won four in a row at Yankee Stadium dating back to last year. It’s their longest winning streak in the Bronx since a four-gamer at the old stadium in 2006. And it was a good way to begin a seven-game road trip for the A’s, who came in with the league’s worst road record at 6-15.


Rosales had puffiness under his right eye and said he was anticipating a shiner after his hard head-first dive into third base didn’t go as planned in the eighth. He scraped up his face pretty good after going first to third on an errant pickoff throw and taking a hard dive into third, only to find the dirt wasn’t giving.

After addressing reporters, Rosales said he was on his way to find an ice pack.