SAN JOSE – Logan Couture got all the attention postgame, and rightfully so, but there were some other notable developments from the Sharks’ 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Here are three takeaways from San Jose’s third straight win…
1 – Finding a way
It was easy to tell on Wednesday night in the visitor’s dressing room at Staples Center that the Sharks’ win over the Kings was maybe their most rewarding of the season, being down some key players yet taking the rubber match of the five-game season series.
The flip side of that is the game with the Lightning, on the second of a back-to-back against a non-rival, was tougher to get up for. The Sharks found a way, though, despite getting a bit overwhelmed over the first half of the first period.
“We expected the first 10 minutes to be tough coming back from L.A., an emotional win, and they're sitting here waiting for us,” Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we kept them to the perimeter, even though the shot clock wasn't in our favor. As the game went on, I thought we got better."
Aaron Dell said: "We were a little bit tired to start, I think. I think they knew that, so they made an early push. I think we fended it off pretty well."
DeBoer pointed out after the game that the other teams around the Sharks in the Pacific Division are winning lately, too. Anaheim is 5-0-1 in its last six, while the Oilers have won four straight since losing to the Sharks last week.
“We have to find a way, and tonight was one of those find-a-way games,” he said. “They're not easy to play. The deck's stacked against you coming in. We found a way."
2 – Carpenter contributing
Rookie Ryan Carpenter admitted he was a bit surprised to see his name in the lineup when he got to the rink on Thursday. Even with Couture and Joonas Donskoi healthy again, Carpenter remained as the fourth line center, while injured forwards Timo Meier and Micheal Haley were not able to play.
His goal in the second period staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead, marking the second straight game that a fourth liner got on the board in what was another one-goal victory.
The Sharks were pressing the Lightning in their own end before Carpenter hopped over the boards, and he was the beneficiary of some tired defenders.
“[Joel Ward] does a good job in front of the net to create traffic, and even the shift before that, they got a lot of zone time and I just kind of jumped out there,” Carpenter said. “Kind of benefited from that, so that was nice.”
The way he’s played, it’s fair to wonder if Carpenter could be the latest Barracuda player to push one of the regulars out of the lineup. He’s been effective.
“He's been hard, he's been physical, he's a big body and defensively responsible, and he's chipped in some offense,” DeBoer said. “He plays the way we want to play. He's done a real good job for us."
3 – Important win for Dell
Any good NHL goaltender has to have an ability to put bad games, and bad goals, behind them. Aaron Dell wasn’t awful in Calgary on Jan. 11, but he looked shaky for the majority of the game.
Not against the Lightning, though. Dell played very well, particularly early when the Sharks weren’t skating very well in front of him, and late, when they were holding on to that slim one goal edge.
“We like playing in front of him,” Joe Pavelski said. “You see him, he’s aggressive, he’s into the game, he’s attacking pucks. That’s everything you want from your goalie. He’s made all the saves that we can ask him to make.”
The one he allowed was impossible to stop, as Jonathan Drouin easily held off Mikkel Boedker (who was benched for the third period again) in the neutral zone and skated around Marc-Edouard Vlasic before slipping it through.
“He's a skilled player, made a skilled play,” Dell said. “I didn't think he could get it around me on that one."
Vlasic, of course, rarely gets beat like that. He joked that when he saw he was requested by the media after the game, “I knew you were going to ask me about that.”
“We won the game. It was 2-1. It was a positive win, so we’ll take the positives from the win,” Vlasic said.
SAN JOSE – Logan Couture didn’t skate against the Kings on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, but that sure didn’t mean he was feeling all that energetic to play against the Lightning on Thursday.
The 27-year-old center had a pretty rough start to his week. He was unable to finish Monday’s game against Winnipeg, and then couldn’t go on the quick road trip to Southern California on Tuesday, either.
We’ll let him explain.
"I wasn't feeling too well during the [Winnipeg] game, had an IV during that game, and came off. Didn't have enough energy to finish that game. Went home. Started throwing up a bunch and actually went to the hospital, got a couple more IVs. Slept that night, didn't make it through the night, threw up a couple more times. Didn't really get any sleep, so I talked to [Sharks trainer Ray Tufts] and he told me to stay home, and not come on the trip.
"Didn't get any food in my throat for about 48 hours. It was a tough little stretch, and finally yesterday I was able to get back to normal. I think it was just a stomach bug, but it hit pretty hard. I think I lost six pounds. So, it was a tough couple days.”
Despite all that, Couture managed to have an impact in the Sharks’ 2-1 win over the Lightning. And not just a minor impact, either, as he scored the game-winning goal early in the third period in a game in which the Sharks as a team were understandably sluggish at times but still found a way.
"I thought he was excellent. Gutsy effort by him coming back in,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who slightly limited Couture’s minutes.
The winning goal came when Couture’s linemates, Kevin Labanc and Joonas Donskoi, fought for a loose puck behind the Tampa Bay net. Labanc managed to poke it to Couture, who had pushed away from Tyler Johnson and found just enough space inside the far post with his shot to break a 1-1 tie on the opening shift of the third period.
Goalie Aaron Dell made it hold up, making some clutch third period saves on Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula, in particular.
After allowing a bad goal in Calgary last week that cost the Sharks at least one point in the standings, Dell was outstanding on a night that his teammates needed him.
"I've given up a lot of goals in my life. I think it's pretty easy to let it go now, but I really wanted to come back and make a good impression after that,” he said.
Ryan Carpenter, familiar with Dell from their days on the Barracuda together last season, said: “He made some big saves tonight. That’s just what he does. Whenever he plays, he always does well somehow. It’s nice to be a part of it, and see him get that one tonight.”
Carpenter played a role, too, getting the Sharks a 1-0 lead with his second career NHL goal five minutes into the middle frame. He was the beneficiary of a long shift by the Sharks in the Tampa Bay end, firing in a Paul Martin feed off of Nikita Nesterov’s leg.
"That was just off a line change,” DeBoer said. “He got out there a little bit early and made a great play. Big goal for us."
The Sharks were in survival mode earlier in the game, one day after recording one of their more satisfying, complete wins of the season over the rival Kings. Tampa Bay recorded eight of the first nine shots on goal, and San Jose was having particular trouble moving the puck out of their own end and through the neutral zone.
After Carpenter’s goal, and a remarkable power play score by Jonathan Drouin tied it, the message in the dressing room in the second intermission was to go out and win the third period.
"Guys did a good job in the locker room going out in the third and just understanding what’s at stake," Joe Pavelski said. "There’s two big points, it doesn’t matter your opponent that you’re playing, you’ve got to go find it."
They did, courtesy of Couture, even if his pads were a little looser than normal from his sudden and unexpected diet.