By Mary Walsh
The San Jose Sharks took a 2-1 series lead over the Colorado Avalanche, winning 4-2 in Denver Tuesday. Three of the Sharks’ goals came from Logan Couture, and one from Timo Meier. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Nieto scored for Colorado. Martin Jones made 25 saves for the win, and Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves in the loss.
After the game, Martin Jones said of Logan Couture: “He’s clutch, I mean big games, big moments in games, he’s the guy that, every time, you can rely on. So, he was huge again tonight.”
The Sharks took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, but then saw the game tied 2-2 in the third period. Of the team’s response to this situation, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said:
I loved our response, it was even-keeled, there was no panic, you know, it was just ‘get out there and let’s get back at this.’ I think we knew, at that point it was 2-2, but, you know, we deserved to be in a different spot than that. We knew what was working for us and we just needed to get back to that.
Power plays were remarkably unproductive in the game. None scored and only one power play in the game generated more than one shot, Colorado’s in the second period. That one only got two shots.
Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said, of his team’s defensive success in the game: “I think it came down to the pk. You know, we did a really good job, they had a lot of good chances but we kept it out of the net.”
The Sharks had two power plays by the time the middle of the first period had gone by. They had few shots on those power plays that looked dangerous, but hit a lot of metal. The Avs had their first power play abbreviated as it overlapped with the Sharks’ second one. The power plays and the four-on-four added to the speed of the period, which didn’t generate any scoring until the last five minutes.
Logan Couture was able to score after a prolonged attack on the Colorado net, at 15:24. Grubauer made several saves before Couture put the puck past him with a reaching swipe at his own rebound. Assists went to Gus Nyquist and Timo Meier.
Timo Meier added another in the final minute of the period. Rushing in after intercepting the puck in the neutral zone, Meier blew past the unsuspecting defense and took the shot without slowing down. The puck rang the bar on its way in.
The shot count for the first period was 13-7 Sharks. The Sharks jumped right into the second with four shots in the first 90 seconds of the period. The Avs had two in those 90.
The Sharks had a great shift from the Couture-Meier-Kane line around the 3:20 mark. While the forwards kept the Avs locked in the defensive zone, defensemen Vlasic and Burns got some shots in to stir things up. A shot from Vlasic bounced up and over Grubauer, but managed to stay out. Before the 10-minute mark, the Sharks were on the power play and already had eleven shots to Colorado’s three.
The power play came from a high stick to Micheal Haley’s face. The Sharks did not score but the power play time kept the Avs on their heels. The teams traded penalties again as the period wore on but penalty killers were perfect in the second, technically.
Less than a second after the second Sharks power play expired, Ian Cole intercepted a stretch pass from Brent Burns. He got the puck right to Nathan MacKinnon as he flew off the bench and through the neutral zone. Burns was caught flat-footed as MacKinnon went around him and beat Jones with a quick shot. It was MacKinnon’s fifth of the playoffs. Cole got the lone assist.
The Sharks again outshot the Avs, 13-9 in the second. The Avs came out energized for the third, and got six shots in to the Sharks’ two in the first half of the period. The Sharks also took a too many men penalty at 6:02. Colorado got one shot in that power play, but there were signs of fatigue from the Sharks.
Erik Karlsson’s attempt to move the puck up the boards from behind the net was blocked by Tyson Jost and bounced harmlessly to the corner. That led to an extended attack from Colorado against Sharks, who had already been on the ice for too long. Samuel Girard’s shot came down from the blue line into traffic and went off of Matt Nieto, into the net at 11:45. It was Nieto’s fourth of the playoffs. Assists went to Girard and Cale Makar.
Despite appearances, the Sharks were not completely gassed yet, and they made their first significant push of the third into the offensive zone. After Gus Nyquist forced a turnover just inside the Colorado blue line, Logan Couture, who had been dawdling before leaving the zone, got the puck and had a clear lane to the net. With a couple of little moves, he avoided a defender’s stick and got Grubauer moving just enough to let the puck get by on the short side. It was Couture’s eighth of the playoffs. Nyquist got the assist.
Colorado finished the game on a power play, but they pulled their goaltender to add a sixth skater. Colorado could not really hold the zone and, after a few tries, the Sharks got an empty net goal. It was Couture’s for the hat trick.
Gus Nyquist was able to make it to the game even though he did not travel with the team. He stayed behind with his wife while she delivered their first child, a daughter named Charlotte.
After the game, Nyquist said: “It’ll be nice to lay down in bed tonight and think about a few good days.”
Game 4 will be Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver at 7:00 PM PT.