Rewind: Sharks 'finding their stride' in latest win over L.A.

Rewind: Sharks 'finding their stride' in latest win over L.A.

LOS ANGELES – Not only was Los Angeles the much more rested team headed into Wednesday’s game with the Sharks, having not played in four days while San Jose was on a back-to-back, the Kings were also the hottest team in hockey. They brought a five-game winning streak into the meeting with their biggest rival, the longest active streak in the league.

There were no illusions on the San Jose side that this was going to be a tough one. 

The Sharks, though, have been playing pretty well lately, too. After a 4-1 win, now they can perhaps lay claim to being the hottest in the league, having won five of their last six while opening up a three-point lead on the rest of the Pacific Division.

Three points from Logan Couture, two goals from rookie forwards and another strong outing by goalie Martin Jones against his old mates were the keys to Wednesday’s victory.

“I feel our game right now, we’re finding our stride,” said Couture, who posted two goals and one assist. “Inconsistent at the start, but I think we’re playing some of our better hockey right now.”

The Kings had the early territorial edge, even after Kevin Labanc’s second career goal on a two-on-one with Couture staked San Jose a lead at 3:32. The Sharks remained committed in their defensive end, though, keeping the Kings to the outside, and waited to pounce again.

They did, late in the first. A nice shift by the second line of Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Couture was capped off by Couture’s marker at 19:05, while Mikkel Boedker nicely sprung Ryan Carpenter on a two-on-one for the rookie’s first NHL goal just 30 seconds later.

Getting goals from Labanc and Carpenter, who was filling in for an injured Chris Tierney at the time of his goal, was especially welcomed (Tierney returned to start the second).

“We needed some contributions tonight,” DeBoer said. “It’s a tough situation, back-to-back, playing last night at home, L.A. is rested. You look at their home record (9-2-0 before Wednesday). We knew this was going to be a really tough game, and we challenged the group to have contributions from everybody.”

Playing in just his fourth career game, Carpenter was overjoyed to see his shot beat Peter Budaj. He has helped to generate a goal in two of the last three games, screening Jonathan Bernier on Dylan DeMelo’s score on Saturday against Anaheim.

“You never know if you’re going to score one or not, so it’s nice to get one,” Carpenter said. “Now you don’t have to think about it anymore.”

Couture praised both rookies.

“[Labanc] has done a great job. [On his goal] I knew if he got it to him he was going to bury it, he’s got a great shot. [Carpenter] has played well. In the games that he’s played he hasn’t been rewarded on the scoresheet, so it was nice to see him [score a goal] tonight.”

Brent Burns said: “They’ve been playing great. Big, strong kids. It’s huge when they chip in. It’s a big part [of the game]. We need that.”

Although they scored three in the first period, the third period was perhaps the Sharks’ most impressive. Despite playing against Arizona the night before, they had the energy to keep the Kings from recording a single shot on goal for the first 12-plus minutes while holding a 3-1 edge. 

Couture’s empty netter from the other side of the rink was the final nail in the Kings’ coffin after Jones made some timely saves in the later minutes.

DeBoer said: “I loved our third period with the lead. I thought we really locked things down, and that’s how we want to play.”

The Sharks are no strangers to blowing leads to the Kings, of course, and Couture recalled Game 5 of last year’s first round playoff series when the Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to see the Kings storm back to tie it. Perhaps that prior experience brought a little extra drive and focus for those final 20 minutes.

“We’ve played these guys enough to know that they can change things pretty quickly,” Couture said.

On Wednesday, though, the Kings were never able to recover from the early deficit. The Sharks have allowed just eight goals in their last six games, and shut down a Los Angeles team that had averaged 3.40 goals-per game during their five-game winning streak.

“They still got a few looks and Jonesy was there, but I think every time we got on the ice against [Anze] Kopitar or [Jeff] Carter, it was a real commitment by all five guys on the ice to defend, and defend hard,” DeBoer said. “I thought we did a good job.”

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.