Sharks come back to beat Penguins in shootout, 4-3

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Sharks come back to beat Penguins in shootout, 4-3

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SAN JOSE -- Something had to be done after the first period.Not only were the Sharks trailing Pittsburgh 2-0, but they were thoroughly outplayed, outshot, and their starting goaltender was pulled just over two minutes into the game.Enter Ryane Clowe. The Sharks forward dropped the gloves just seven seconds into the second period, scored in the third, and then tallied the only goal in the shootout to give San Jose a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

We had no business winning that game after the first period, said Todd McLellan. But, we found a way to work back into it.RATTO: Fan silence motivates late-arriving Sharks
San Jose erased a 3-1 deficit with a pair of third period goals.Struggling most of the night to generate any prime scoring chances against the Penguins, Clowe converted on a rush with Marty Havlat to cut it to 3-2, when he lifted a perfect backhander over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury at 9:11.The Sharks third line, which McLellan said earlier in the day he wanted to see more from, got the equalizer. Michal Handzus found Jamie McGinn in front of the net and McGinn managed to whack it past Fleury with 4:54 left in regulation. It was McGinns first of the season.We knew after the first 10 games we werent producing like we wanted to, said McGinn. We just werent getting the points or the goals. It was very important for us to change momentum, keep the puck in their end, get some zone time and we were rewarded with a goal.Clowe was the only one of six shooters to score in the shootout, but it was his fight with Derek Engelland that seemed to wake up his team. In the first period, Engelland drilled Joe Thornton with a crushing hit along the boards, sending the Sharks captain to the ice.Even though it was clean, Clowe took exception.He took a pretty good run at Joe, and at times you cant really go after a guy so you take a number," he said. "The other thing, though, they were playing five defensemen. I think he was smart about it saying no at first, but hes a gamer so I figured he would. And he did.Clowe asked Engelland to drop the gloves while the teams were lining up for the opening faceoff in the second.I figured I would at least send out the invitation, said Clowe.Patrick Marleau got the Sharks on the board shortly after at 2:37 of the second, when his wrist shot got underneath the arm of Fleury.The Penguins got their two-goal cushion back, though, on a fortunate bounce.On a three-on-two rush, Evgeni Malkin took a pass from Kris Letang and fired it on net. The puck never made it, hitting James Neal in the leg. Fortunately for the Penguins, it subsequently hit Malkins skate and redirected over the goal line at 9:37. A video review confirmed that Malkin did not use a kicking motion.It was one of two goals on the night for Malkin. The Penguins star banked in a puck off of the skate of Brent Burns at 2:04 of the first period, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead.That goal chased Antti Niemi, who also gave up a goal to Engelland just 24 seconds in, in favor of Thomas Greiss.McLellan had a couple reasons for making the change in net.I didnt think Niemi was ready to play though, either. Just like everybody else, said the coach, who wanted to change momentum, but also send a message that Niemi has to be ready to go, as well.Greiss stopped 29 of 30 shots in picking up his second victory. He also made a bit of history, becoming just the second goalie in the overtime era (since 1983-84) to come into a game in relief, play more than 60 minutes, and earn the win.I thought Tommy came in and played extremely well, and gave us a chance to work our way into the game, said McLellan.Malkin, who was the Penguins best player of the night, had a chance to put the Penguins ahead as their second shooter in the shootout. He faked a shot and tried to fire it past Greiss, but the Sharks goaltender didnt go for the move.I come out pretty far, try to make them go around me, said Greiss of his shootout strategy.It worked, giving Clowe a chance to win the game, which he did when he fired it below the blocker and above the pad of Fleury and Griess stopped Pascal Dupuis.
That gave the coach at least some measure of satisfaction.Todd said he would put us through the paces pretty good tomorrow, but at least we got the two points to sleep a little easier, he said.Odds and ends: The Sharks honored Thornton in a pregame ceremony for his 1000th game played and 1000th NHL point. Among the gifts was a wooly mammoth tusk, presented to him by his teammates. I think after the first everybody touched it, and it kind of gave us some luck, said Thornton. There was just one power play all night, in which the Sharks failed to convert in the third period. The last time the Penguins didnt have a power play in a game was Feb. 23, 2003. Brad Winchester got the decision on a fight with Craig Adams in the first, landing a good right hand. Jason Demers and Colin White were scratched in favor of Justin Braun and Jim Vandermeer. Benn Ferreiro was also scratched. ... The Sharks are 2-0 in shootouts this season, and 3-0 when a game goes past regulation.

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.

Power play at the center of Sharks' downfall in 2016-17

Power play at the center of Sharks' downfall in 2016-17

SAN JOSE – There was an NHL coaching casualty on Monday on a team that flamed out in the first round.

No, it wasn’t in San Jose. It was in Chicago, as the Blackhawks fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who was in charge of their penalty kill. Chicago, swept by Nashville despite finishing atop the Western Conference, finished 24th on the PK in the regular season.

When it comes to the Sharks’ coaching staff, there’s no doubt that head coach Pete DeBoer will return, but it’s fair to wonder if assistant coach Steve Spott is feeling a little heat right now. The Sharks’ power play, a primary focus of Spott’s, finished just 25th in the NHL this season (16.7 percent) after it was third in the league in 2015-16 (22.5 percent).

When asked if the full Sharks’ coaching staff would return next season, general manager Doug Wilson didn’t offer anything definitive.

“I haven’t sat down with them yet. I think they did an outstanding job,” Wilson said. “You go through the last 12 months with a compressed schedule, very few practices, integrating players. I’m very pleased with their performance.

“I think there are things that they want to do better. We all have to take a look back and be honest, and say since we’re not playing right now, what can we do better? I think that transparency and honesty is a really good part of this group. We’ll do that in the next week.”

And what was Wilson’s perspective of the power play?

“It’s got to be better. [The coaches] will tell you. …  It’s not [always] the percentage or the number, it’s when you score goals. We certainly have the talent, and historically we’ve done very well,” Wilson said.

There was no part of the Sharks’ game during the regular season and in the playoffs that was more baffling and frustrating than its performance with a man advantage. Last season’s success seemed to bleed into October as the Sharks were running at a 24.1 percent rate through the first month of the 2016-17 season, but after November 1 and through the end of the season, the power play was a miserable 15.7 percent (34-for-217).

In the playoffs the Sharks were a more respectable 5-for-28, but even DeBoer called that misleading as four of those came in the 7-0 blowout in Game 4. They were 1-for-18 the rest of the series.

DeBoer, as the head coach, took responsibility for that part of the Sharks’ game when asked how much the miserable power play grinded on Spott.

“It grinds on all of us,” he said. “This isn’t about Steve. The power play is not about Steve. The power play is about our whole staff. We sit on all those situations as a group, and I’m the ultimate guy responsible for all those things. 

“I think it ground on all of us. It didn’t give us momentum, it didn’t create momentum even when it wasn’t scoring. That’s what you want your power play to do, is at least give you some momentum that you’re feeling good coming out of it. We didn’t get that, so that’s something that’s right at the top of our list.”

One baffling aspect of the power play is that the coaching staff hardly ever tried anything different with its units unless it was forced into it due to injury. Patrick Marleau was bumped from the top unit for a brief stretch in the middle of the season, but it didn’t last very long.

The second unit generated just seven goals in the 82-game season, and none after Feb. 2 other than rookie Danny O’Regan’s score in the final game when several Sharks regulars were resting.

One argument regarding the top unit is that it simply became too predictable. Joe Thornton could be counted on to pass, Brent Burns was going to shoot any chance he got, and Joe Pavelski would be hovering somewhere around the slot looking for a deflection.

Pavelski said: “There were times where maybe we rushed it, forced a few things. Definitely all year it could have been a little better, a little more of our identity and what it has been in the past. So, that’s on us as players.”

DeBoer said: “I think we got a little stagnant. I don’t think we had as much motion as we usually have and as much movement, and that comes with some confidence. You lose confidence, you tend to stand still. That’s something that we’ve got to get back.”