OAKLAND Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been around baseball long enough that nothing really rattles the 67-year-old skipper.Think Wednesday nights blown lead in the ninth inning against the As kept him up tossing and turning in his hotel bed? Not quite.I slept great last night, Leyland said a couple of hours before the decisive Game 5 at Oakland Coliseum.According to Leyland, the 4-3 loss in which his club held a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth was a little easier to take in that his ballclub really didnt do anything wrong.I know this sounds crazy because we were all a little heartbroken, I wasnt really as upset as everybody else was last night, and Ill tell you why: We didnt walk them. We didnt hit a batter. We didnt make an error. We didnt throw the ball away or make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball, and stroked the ball good off of Jose Valverde last night. Were we all a little heartbroken? Sure, but, you know what? They earned it.What may have also aided Leylands nocturnal success was the fact that hell be sending his ace, Justin Verlander, to the mound on full rest as his team tries to book a ticket to the American League Championship Series with a win against the As.Verlander pitched seven strong innings in the Tigers Game 1 victory, surrendering just one run while walking four and striking out 11.Leylands biggest concern when it comes to Verlander is that hed like to keep the star right-hander's pitch count down. Verlander threw 121 pitches in Game 1.Thats the one thing you worry about Verlander, its not so much that the A's are working the count, its that they foul pitches off, which gets his pitch count up sometimes, Leyland said. Thats what youve got to watch for tonight. I think the first inning will be a big inning for him to settle in with everything thats going on. I think hell be good no matter what, but I think the first inning will be a big inning.Leyland said he has access to his full pitching staff, including starter Doug Fister, if necessary. But his team will be in trouble if he has to go that route.This game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game. I dont have anybody better than him. If they get to him that much, well probably be in trouble.Hes confident that the Tigers will be able to put Wednesdays stunning loss behind them.You learn over the years, and I always use the expression, you cant chew yesterdays breakfast. Its over and they beat us, they earned it, they had a great celebration on the field. Game 5 is tonight, its going to be exciting, loud, and this is what we do for a living.
NEW YORK — Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, Martin Jones stopped xx shots and the San Jose Sharks beat the struggling New York Rangers 4-1 on Monday night.
Tim Heed, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also scored to help the Sharks win for the third time in four games. Jones got his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts.
Mika Zibanejad scored and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6-2 on the season. New York finished 0 for 6 on the power play and is 3 for 25 over the last six games.
With the Sharks leading 3-0 after two periods, Couture took the puck away from Lundqvist behind the goal and sent it to Karlsson, who put it in for his second of the season at 2:51 of the third. Couture got his 200th career assist on the play.
San Jose turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Zibanejad snapped a shot into the top right corner to spoil Jones' shutout bid at 4:23 of the final period.
Donskoi increased the Sharks' lead to 3-0 with 38 seconds left in the second as he skated into the right circle and beat Lundqvist glove-side inside the right post.
The Rangers controlled the play for most of the first period while outshooting the Sharks 16-8, but trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Couture, who had his second career hat trick in a loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday night, got San Jose on the scoreboard 1:56 into the game. With Jones pulled for an extra skater on a delayed penalty, Brent Burns sent pass from the right circle up top to Couture, who fired a slap shot from straightaway past Lundqvist.
Jones had two nice saves on back-to-back attempts in close by Pavel Buchnevich with a little more than nine minutes left in the first.
Heed doubled the Sharks' lead with 7:15 left as he brought the puck up the right side and sent a bad-angle shot from near the goal line along the boards. The puck trickled through Lundqvist's pads for the 26-year-old's first career goal in his seventh NHL game.
The Rangers had a two-man advantage for 25 seconds late in the opening period, but Jones stoppedZibanejad's shot from top of the left circle, and Rick Nash missed with an attempt in close.
NOTES: Couture has six goals and three assists in his last four games. ... The Sharks are 30 for 31 on the penalty kill in seven games since giving up three power-play goals in the season- opener against Philadelphia. ... The teams conclude the season series Jan. 25 at San Jose. ... Rangers D Kevin Shattenkirk played in his 500th career regular season game. ... New York F Rick Nash played in his 999th game. ... D Marc Staal played in his 699th game — all with the Rangers — and passed Mark Messier and Steve Vickers for sole possession of 12th place on the franchise list. ... New York has given up 15 goals in the first period this season.
Sharks: At Boston on Thursday night in the fifth of a six-game trip that concludes at Buffalo on Saturday.
Rangers: Host Arizona on Thursday night in the finale of a season-high six-game homestand.
Whenever the NHL's schedule comes out, a trip to Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers is usually a highlight. A matchup against one of the league's biggest teams, in the country's biggest city, in a historic venue? That's a date worth circling.
If the San Jose Sharks circle it, it’s for entirely different reasons.
Throughout the entirety of the franchise’s 26-season existence, the Garden has been anything but welcoming. The Sharks have traveled to the world’s most famous arena 17 times, and have only skated off with a win four times. They didn’t even win a game there until October 19, 1999, in San Jose’s eighth appearance in the building.
Madison Square Garden has been “King” Henrik Lundqvist’s castle against the Sharks. The king in the castle is also the moat surrounding it: In four career appearances against San Jose at home, Lundqvist has only allowed four goals.
The Sharks haven’t been able to solve his squires, either, losing games to two of his most recent back-ups: Martin Biron, now on television, and Antti Raanta, now in Arizona. Lundqvist will likely start on Monday night, but if he doesn’t, this is probably the one instance where San Jose wouldn’t want to face Ondrej Pavelec, even though he’s never managed to eclipse a .920 save percentage in a season.
That’s because the team’s most recent appearances at the Garden have been among their worst. The Sharks have been shut out twice in their last four visits to Manhattan, and have only scored five goals over that span. They did manage to win one game, thanks to a Lundqvist-like shutout from then-goaltender Antti Niemi in 2014.
Martin Jones, on the other hand, has been decidedly unlike Lundqvist. He’s allowed nine goals on 55 shots in two road starts against the original six franchise, good for an .837 save percentage. The skaters in front of him exactly helped Jones, either. The Sharks have played from behind in their last two trips to Madison Square Garden, failing to score first and trailing after the first two periods both times.
Those recent struggles are especially strange, given Peter DeBoer’s relative success in the building. He won big road games against the Rangers before assuming his role behind the Sharks’ bench, most notably two in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when DeBoer’s Devils upset the top-seeded Rangers. Once you coach this team in that arena, though, all bets are off.
Somehow, in a month known for horror, there may be nothing scarier than the thought of the Sharks playing in Madison Square Garden.