Sharks take big step toward playoffs with win in Dallas

722264.jpg

Sharks take big step toward playoffs with win in Dallas

BOX SCORE

DALLAS Logan Couture scored a power play goal late in the second while four other Sharks also found the net in a 5-2 San Jose win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.

The Sharks (41-29-10, 92 points) solidified their playoff position by moving three points ahead of Dallas and, at least momentarily, into seventh place in the Western Conference ahead of the Coyotes. Phoenix, one point ahead of the Sharks at the start of the night, is hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game that is yet to be completed.

Dallas (42-33-5, 89 points) remains in ninth place.

Dallas had the territorial advantage for much of the second period, especially early, but found itself trailing 3-2 after 40 minutes.

Alex Goligoski gave the Stars their first lead at 11:10 when his blast from the high slot beat Antti Niemi to make it 2-1. But it didnt last long.

Just 32 seconds later, San Joses fourth line tied it at 2-2. Dominic Moore, from behind the net, found TJ Galiardi to Kari Lehtonens left, and Galiardi skillfully lifted it high over Lehtonens shoulder for his first point as a Shark.

A Michael Ryder tripping penalty put the Sharks on the power play late. They cashed in on Logan Coutures first goal in 11 games, when he nicely redirected a pass from the boards by Marty Havlat past Lehtonen at 17:24.

Coutures 10-game goal-less drought tied his career high. He equaled Joe Pavelski for the team lead with 31 this season.

Joe Thornton gave the Sharks some insurance with a wrist shot from the circle over Lehtonen at 15:10, converting a pass from the corner by Joe Pavelski. The goal came just moments after Antti Niemi stopped the dangerous Jamie Benn on a breakaway.

Ryane Clowe's empty-net goal with just over a minute left capped the scoring.

The Stars had a great chance to take a lead late in the first and early in the second, as penalties to Colin White and Brent Burns gave them nearly a minute of time with a two-man advantage. They failed in the closing seconds of the first, even while Couture had a broken stick, and then Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle kept the Stars at bay for the remainder of the two-man advantage to start the second. San Jose then killed off the remaining time on the Burns hooking call to keep it 1-1 at the time.

Dallas entered the game with the leagues worst power play (14.1 percent).

The Sharks survived an early push from the Stars and took a 1-0 lead at 12:09. Burns shot deflected to Daniel Winnik, who managed to bounce his shot off of a fallen Lehtonen for his eighth of the year.

The lead didnt last. Stars captain Brenden Morrow managed to bank a puck in off of Niemis right skate from underneath the goal line at 17:47 in a bad goal by the Sharks netminder.

Dallas, which entered 1-4-0 against San Jose this season including a 3-0 loss on Thursday at HP Pavilion, registered eight of the first nine shots in front of a rare sold out crowd.
Odds and ends: Douglas Murray missed his third straight game with a lower body injury. There was a stretch of six minutes and 24 seconds in the first period without a whistle. ... The Sharks wasted a four-minute power play earlier in the third with Mark Fistric off on a double-minor for high-sticking Joe Thornton at 3:27.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?