MONTREAL – When a team is struggling to score goals, as the Sharks are right now with some key pieces out of the lineup, a fortunate bounce leading to an effortless conversion is more welcome than normal.
The Sharks got just that on a key insurance goal in the third period of their 2-0 win over Montreal on Saturday night at Bell Centre. Patrick Marleau’s hard dump-in attempt ricocheted off of the corner boards to the slot, where Logan Couture deposited his second of the night at 4:09 to give San Jose a 2-0 lead. Goaltender Carey Price was out of position after going behind the net to play a puck that never made it that far.
Couture’s first marker was the only scoring through two periods. Joe Thornton received a pass from Marleau and quickly fed Couture for a redirection at 6:20. Of Couture’s 14 career multi-goal games, 10 have come on the road.
Antti Niemi, the only goalie to play every minute of every game for his team this season, made several impressive stops. In the first period, he gloved a shot by Tomas Plekanec on a two-on-one shorthanded rush midway through the period, and later denied David Desharnais from in close with 5:41 to go in the frame.
Desharnais nearly tied the game in the second on a delayed penalty to Brad Stuart. Niemi was out of the goal crease when Desharnais corralled a loose puck and tried to speedily push it home, but a quick stick from Marc-Edouard Vlasic knocked it away. The Sharks killed off the minor to Stuart, and Stuart’s blast with 15 seconds left in the second was snagged by Carey Price to keep it 1-0 after two.
The Sharks (9-1-1) improved to 2-1-0 on their five game road trip. It was their first visit to Montreal since Dec. 4, 2010, and just their third win in 15 games here.
Despite not making it on the scoresheet, rookie Matt Nieto had perhaps his best NHL game to date. The third line winger finished with a game-high six shots, and nearly scored early in the third when his shot snuck through Price before it was cleared out of the crease.
After scoring at least three goals in each of their first eight games, the Sharks have been held to three total in their last three games.
The Sharks entered the game with nearly 26 more minutes on the power play than the penalty kill, a league best by more than seven minutes. That number grew against Montreal, as San Jose had four power plays to just one for the Canadiens. Couture’s power play goal was his second of the season.
San Jose has allowed just one power play goal against in its last six games.
Niemi recorded his league-leading ninth win with 22 saves. Price fell to 5-5-0, allowing two goals on 35 shots.
Backup Alex Stalock is expected to get his first start on Sunday in Ottawa.
Tommy Wingels, who missed the final two periods in Boston on Thursday after getting crunched by Zdeno Chara, returned to action. Rookie Tomas Hertl, whose production has slowed significantly since his hot start, took some shifts on the fourth line switching places with John McCarthy.
New acquisition Mike Brown was a healthy scratch, while James Sheppard returned to the lineup.
The Sharks remain without Brent Burns and Dan Boyle, while the Canadiens are also fighting the injury bug. Max Pacioretty, Brandon Prust, Danny Briere and Douglas Murray are all out, among others.
San Jose plays in its first back-to-back situation with a game in Ottawa on Sunday. They return to the Bay Area immediately afterwards, but get right back on a plane to visit Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 30, to conclude the five-game road swing.
The Sharks’ 10 back-to-backs are tied for the fewest in the league.