By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE– Before Saturday’s 6-4 win over Anaheim, the Sharks were not sure whether or not Logan Couture would be able to play. “This morning I woke up and my eye was swollen, I could barely see out of it, so I knew something was up,” he said after the game. Considering how Couture played on Saturday, maybe he should consider wearing an eye patch before all of his games, to mimic a pregame eye problem.
After the game, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of Couture’s performance:
I thought he had a hell of a game, probably his best game of the season in my opinion. He was all over the puck, he played well defensively, he looked really good.
Couture and Patrick Marleau ended the game with two points each while Wingels earned the first star and four points for the game. They were the most effective line in the game. Antti Niemi made 30 saves on 34 shots (seemingly all in a frenetic third period), and Tomas Hertl’s backhand goal ended up as the game winner. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf scored three of the Ducks’ four goals.
The Sharks started very well, but ended the second period and started the third in a muddle. With the Ducks closing in, McLellan used his time out. In those seconds, Wingels explained, the coaches reminded to team to get back to the way they started:
What made us effective in the first two periods? Playing a north-south game, that was being physical, getting in on the forecheck and creating pressure. I thought when they did score, we kind of started circling a bit, taking pucks east-west.
Clearly, the reminders worked.
The first goal of the game came from Logan Couture, midway through a grinding first period. The puck bounced a bit in front of the net and it was on a second or third bounce that Couture put it over the prone Ducks goaltender. Wingels and Marleau got the assists on the goal.
Almost two minutes later, Ducks forward Matt Beleskey tied the score on Anaheim’s fourth shot of the game. Defenseman Hampus Lindholm’s shot from the blue line traced a line of four players all stacked in front of Niemi, making the shot very difficult to see. Beleskey tipped it in to score his 11th of the season. Assists went to Lindholm and Devante Smith-Pelly.
At 12:41, Justin Braun went to the penalty box for delay of game, taking the first penalty of the game. Perhaps disatisfied with a waste of a perfectly good lead, Logan Couture promptly took it back with a short-handed breakaway, made possible by a fallen Duck at the blue line. Couture was patient and precise taking the shot, scoring his tenth of the season.
With just over a minute left in the period, Matt Irwin drew a high-sticking penalty on Jakob Silfverberg. At the time, the Sharks were pinned in their zone and they needed a break. The break they got, and a power play goal as well. With 13.6 seconds left in the period, Wingels and Pavelski moved the puck into the zone, then passed it to Joe Thornton in the opposite corner. He passed it back across the blue paint to a waiting Pavelski.
The period ended with the Sharks leading 3-1, and leading in shots 14-5.
Almost three minutes into the second period, Tommy Wingels tipped a Patrick Marleau shot from the blue line to stretch the lead out to 4-1. It was Wingels’ seventh of the season. Assists went to Marleau and Justin Braun.
The Sharks’ fifth goal came from Tomas Hertl, after he collected the puck along the wall when Josh Manson tried to clear it. Hertl punctuated the goal with a little stick handling in front of the goalie, with James Sheppard acting as a screen. That was it for Ducks’ goaltender Frederik Andersen. Jason LaBarbera came on in relief.
The Ducks used their time out, and seconds after play resumed, the players were piled up in the corner for some fisticuffs. James Sheppard, Matt Irwin and Tomas Hertl were all in the thick of it. In the end, Hertl and Sheppard were in the box for the Sharks, while Devante Smith-Pelly and Matt Beleskey went for the Ducks. The Ducks got a power play out of it as Sheppard received and extra two minutes for boarding.
The Sharks killed the penalty off and the ice opened up until Mike Brown was called for closing his hand on the puck. That was 9:37 in to the second.
With 3:33 left in the period, John Scott was called for hooking. The Sharks did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone and kicking the puck back out when the Ducks did dump it in.
Back at even strength, Ryan Getzlaf carried the puck over the line and passed it to Corey Perry as he bore down on the net. A nifty lift put it over Niemi’s pad and gave the Ducks a boost.
At the end of the second period, the Sharks led 5-2 and shots were 26-19 Sharks.
After the game, Logan Couture commented one of the Sharks’ more glaring bad habits this season:
For some reason this year we’ve just been getting away from it for periods at a time, letting the other team get back in games and take it to us. And that’s exactly what we did, we turned pucks over, we.. I don’t know, it’s tough to understand why we do that but luckily we were able to survive it.
Seconds into the third, Corey Perry cut the Sharks’ lead to 5-3. Matching penalties to Mike Brown and Patrick Maroon followed shortly after, putting the teams four on four. After a save and a fairly spectacular second save, Antti Niemi was beaten again, this time by Ryan Getzlaf. The assist went to Corey Perry. With the gap closed to one goal, McLellan used the Sharks’ time out.
The next good chance for the Sharks came from the Sheppard-Hertl-Nieto line, after the Thornton-Pavelski-McGinn line pushed the action back into the Ducks’ zone for a bit. The Sheppard line had a couple of good chances, both featuring shots from Hertl after strong work along the walls from Nieto and Sheppard.
A penalty to the Ducks came at 6:30 of the period. Renee Bourque went for hooking Nieto. Little came from that, though Niemi had to make some good saves on more short-handed chances from the Ducks. By the middle of the period, the shots were 31-30. At 10:13, Mike Brown went back to the box for hooking.
The Sharks survived a broken stick for Vlasic, then escaped to the Ducks’ zone for a game of catch. Another trip up and down the ice, another short-handed chance, and Matt Nieto drew a penalty on the Ducks, negating the last 18 seconds of the Brown penalty, and putting Ryan Kesler in the box. The Ducks did not get a shot on goal during that power play.
The power play generated three or four shots for the Sharks, and kept the Ducks busy for a spell.
The Sharks earned another power play with just over two minutes left in regulation, when Josh Manson went to the box for hooking Tommy Wingels. The Ducks pulled LaBarbera to even things up. With 26 seconds left in the power play, Matt Nieto scored into the empty net after Tommy Wingels got the puck to him with a neat pass. It was Wingels’ fourth point of the game. It was Nieto’s second point of the season.
Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in hits with seven, Tomas Hertl led the team in shots with five. Brendan Dillon led the team in blocked shots with four, but he and his defense partner Brent Burns both finished with minus two ratings.
Frederik Andersen made 14 saves on 19x shots, Jason LaBarbera made 15 saves on 15 shots for the Ducks. Corey Perry led the Ducks in shots with six, Tim Jackman led in hits with five, Mat Clark led them in blocked shots with three.
Mirco Mueller, Matt Tennyson and Barclay Goodrow were scratched. Tyler Kennedy also did not play.
The Sharks next play the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, December 2, at 7:30 PT in San Jose.