Sharks stay perfect on road trip with 3-1 win

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Sharks stay perfect on road trip with 3-1 win

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Sharks came out of the gate with three losses in their first four games despite out-chancing their opponents on a nightly basis, the players and their coach repeated the same mantra: as long as the scoring opportunities were there from key players, the goals would come.Thats exactly the case now, as Joe Pavelski,Logan Couture,Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Martin Havlat all registered points in a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night. The Sharks (4-3) moved above the .500 mark for the first time since opening night, and improved to a perfect 3-0 on their road trip.Pavelski scored twice, including the game-winner at 14:09 of the third period. It came just 57 seconds after the Predators tied the score at 1-1 with a power play goal.

Just as they did against New Jersey on Friday when they fell behind late, and Saturday in Boston when they blew a 2-0 lead in the third period, the Sharks kept their heads up and pulled out a victory.Were just confident, said Joe Thornton, who assisted on both of Pavelskis goals and now has 700 career helpers. It doesnt matter if its a tie game or late in the game, we still have confidence we can pull games out. Thats a good sign, I guess. We rarely panic, and were showing that.Nobody panicked, agreed Todd McLellan, describing his feeling from the bench after Nashville tied the score. We stuck with the plan, and weve played in some tough buildings on this trip so far against some very good teams and found ways to win.Again, it was Pavelski who came through in the clutch. The 27-year-old winger, whose last minute score on Friday forced overtime against the Devils, described the goal that ended up being the difference. Stationed behind the net with the puck, he spied goaltender Pekka Rinne leaning the wrong way before tucking it inside the post.I kind of saw that through the net, he said. Hes big, and just needs a flick of his toe and hes over there. He was coming, and I was glad to see it went through.Pavelski added an empty net goal with 1:12 left to cap the scoring, and now has six total on the season, leading the team. In fact, no other player on the Sharks has more than two.Pavelski, who was shifted to the top line with Thornton and Marleau at the start of training camp, modestly downplayed his early success.Its a good number, but it doesnt mean anything right now. It meant we got the win tonight, but when you suit up the next game your numbers really dont matter, he said. Its about production in the moment, and not getting ahead of yourself and just keep getting those chances. Hopefully, you just keep building.McLellan gave Pavelski, and the top line in general, a little more credit.Thats what he gets paid to do, is play a very good two-way game, McLellan said. I thought that line played a very good game tonight. Big down low, strong cycle, and on the power play, even though we werent fortunate to score one, they moved the puck around pretty good. Theyre starting to gel, and thats a good sign.The Sharks took the lead at 14:22 of the opening period with their first shorthanded goal of the season. Havlat released a quick shot from the slot and Couture got behind the Nashville defense to flick home the rebound.The assist was Havlats third in three games with the Sharks.Basically out of nothing, Havlat created a play, McLellan said. He is a gifted player and thats why weve got him here. I think hes only going to get better as the year goes on.Its actually a play, two-on-two that we work on in practice all the time, said Couture, who has found instant chemistry with his new linemate in scoring his second goal in as many games. Marty made a great play cutting to the middle and I was able to get behind their d-men, and Rinne usually doesnt leave those rebounds like that.The score remained 1-0 until the offensively impaired Preds took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty toRyane Clowe.After Jordan Tootoo sent Couture hard to the ice with what looked to be a clean hit, Clowe dropped his gloves and grabbed the Nashville instigator. Tootoo wisely refrained from fighting, putting his team on the man advantage. On the ensuing power play, Shea Webers hard wrist shot was stopped by Antti Niemi, but Craig Smith found the loose puck in the crease and slid it home.Brent Burns broke his stick seconds earlier, making it even more difficult for the Sharks to clear the puck after they had been strong on the penalty kill up to that point.Clowe didnt hide his displeasure with the call.Its a brutal call. The guy runs across the ice, hits Coutch there, and I just ... whats the call? I just dropped the gloves. I didnt do anything. I didnt hit him or punch him. I dont even think I shoved him. I picked up my gloves again and got two minutes. Its hockey.Clowe is being very noble and sticking up for a teammate that he has a ton of respect for, McLellan said. Were pleased that hes willing to do that. I thought the timing was a little bit poor. Sometimes you have to take a lump to win a game.Clowe was happy to see his teammates respond with Pavelskis goal soon afterwards.That was great, he said. We deserved to win, anyway. We were the better team and played real solid tonight. It was tough that they tied it but it was great for those guys to kind of bail me out.Odds and ends: The Sharks used their same lineup as Saturday in Boston. Torrey Mitchell remained out but could return on Friday in Detroit. Thornton and Patrick Marleau assisted on both of Pavelskis goals. The Sharks outshot the Predators, 36-20. San Jose was 0-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon made their season debuts for the Predators. Bouillon drew a minor penalty to Brad Winchester in the second period for an illegal check to the head, and started a shoving match with Winchester immediately after the play.

NHL Gameday: Critical Sharks road trip begins in Edmonton

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NHL Gameday: Critical Sharks road trip begins in Edmonton

Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 43-26-7, 93 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Oilers: 42-25-9, 93 points, 3rd Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks’ final road trip of the season begins with an important back-to-back in Edmonton and Calgary, as they fight to at least keep home ice advantage in the first round. They are tied in points with the Oilers, and have a three-point advantage, with a game in hand, on Calgary.

San Jose snapped a six-game regulation losing streak on Tuesday against the Rangers, 5-4 in overtime.

“I think we had a good game as a team,” Mikkel Boedker said. “I think we played really well, and we were extremely focused on our details of the game and what we had to do to be successful. That’s going to be the same tonight.”

***There’s a chance that the Sharks and Oilers, who meet once more next week, could be first round playoff opponents. DeBoer weighed in on that possibility, and how it affects tonight's game.

“Where we’re sitting in the standings, the potential of playing each other in the playoffs – all that stuff. It’s a critical game,” Pete DeBoer said. “The outcome isn’t going to end the season for either of us, and both of us will pick up and move on whether it’s a win or a loss and get ready for the next one, but there’s definitely a lot at stake and there’s definitely messaging that can be sent this time of the year.”

Edmonton has won three in a row, and seven of its last eight.

***Speaking of messaging, and DeBoer wouldn’t confirm it, but it appears that Micheal Haley will return to the lineup in place of Kevin Labanc. Haley served a one-game suspension on Tuesday for punching Calle Jarnkrok last Saturday.

Labanc played much of Tuesday’s game on the top line left wing. There were no line rushes on Thursday morning, though, so just who will take that place with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski will remain a mystery until warmups.

***The Sharks have won two of three from Edmonton in the season series, including one in overtime, but the Oilers claimed a 4-1 win in the most recent meeting in San Jose on Jan. 26. They meet for the fifth and final time on April 6. 

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Mikkel Boedker. The free agent addition played his best game in weeks on Tuesday against the Rangers, snapping a 10-game scoreless drought. He recorded a pair of primary assists in San Jose’s win by generating some shots towards the net, which were cleaned up by Jannik Hansen and Chris Tierney. The last time Boedker was in Edmonton on Jan. 10, he registered a hat trick in a 5-3 Sharks victory.

Oilers: Cam Talbot. No goalie has played more this season than Talbot (38-21-8, 2.37 GAA, .920 SP), who has appeared in 68 games and recorded 3992 minutes – more than 400 minutes more than Devan Dubnyk. After a rare game off against Colorado on March 25, he returned to the net to make 34 saves in a 2-1 Oilers win against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson – Patrick Marleau – Joel Ward
Jannik Hansen – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell 

Oilers
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot – David Desharnais – Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula – Mark Letestu – Anton Slepyshev

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning

Cam Talbot (starter)
Laurent Brossoit

INJURIES

Sharks: Logan Couture (face) is out.

Oilers: None.

QUOTEABLE

“It’s big to play those teams that you’re battling with. … It’s going to be tough. But, it’s good to start ramping it up. It’s only going to get harder.” – Brent Burns

Sharks Notes: Couture out for at least three more games

Sharks Notes: Couture out for at least three more games

EDMONTON – Logan Couture is not with the Sharks in Edmonton on Thursday and will not be available to play in any of the next three games on San Jose’s road trip, coach Pete DeBoer said on Thursday morning at Rogers Place.

Couture is still recovering from significant dental work on Monday after a deflected puck knocked out several teeth in a game in Nashville last Saturday. The Sharks have put no timeframe on his return, and after visits to Calgary on Friday and Vancouver on Sunday, have just three games left in the regular season.

Couture’s former coach, Todd McLellan, was asked on Thursday morning how Couture’s absence affects the Sharks ahead of the important Sharks-Oilers game later on Thursday night.

“I can certainly appreciate his skill and ability,” McLellan said. “You guys in San Jose watch him every game. His intensity and his drive – he drives that team as much as anybody does. So, I’m sure it doesn’t help not having him in the lineup. But, we’ll continue to prepare, because they have a number of others that can make you pay.”

The Sharks ended a six-game losing streak on Tuesday against the Rangers, 5-4, with Couture out.

“It’s kind of ironic, as Logan left the team they got back off the losing streak, because others picked up the slack,” McLellan said. “Good teams do that, and San Jose is a good team.”

* * *

One player in particular that upped his game against the Rangers was Chris Tierney, who scored two goals, including the game-tying marker with 2:15 to go in regulation. 

More games like that from the 22-year-old would surely be welcomed by coach Pete DeBoer, as Tierney has struggled throughout his third NHL season to generate consistent offense. In 74 games, he has nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points.

“I thought he was assertive, he was skating well. He’s a young player learning that consistency,” DeBoer said. “When he gets it, when he has a little bit of that assertiveness in his game, a little bit of desperation in his game, he’s very effective. When he settles in and gets a little comfortable, he’s not. 

“We’ve had to sit him a couple times over the last couple years and give him a little bit of a shock, and he’s responded every time. But, every time I want to see the consistency last a little longer and longer, and hopefully you don’t have to do that anymore.”

* * *

Jannik Hansen registered the primary assist on Tierney’s goal, after opening the scoring against the Rangers Tuesday night. It was his first goal with the Sharks after he was acquired from Vancouver just before the trade deadline.

“It [was] a little longer wait than I anticipated,” Hansen said. “We joked after the first game I could have had one in an empty net, didn’t get it. You always like to get those ones out of the way so it doesn’t hang over you. I would have loved to have produced more, especially when we were losing.”

It’s unclear where Hansen will line up against the Oilers. He could return to the top line, where he played when he was first inserted into the Sharks’ lineup, or he may remain with countryman Mikkel Boedker on the third line, with either Tierney or Tomas Hertl as the center.

“I think he fits everywhere and anywhere,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s the beauty of him. He’s such a versatile guy."