Logan Couture 'wasn't very good' in his return to Sharks lineup

Logan Couture 'wasn't very good' in his return to Sharks lineup

EDMONTON – It was the second period of Game 1 on Wednesday night when Logan Couture’s injured mouth was given, shall we say, a little test.

The Oilers’ Eric Gryba finished his check along the wall, but got Couture up high in the process. The big defenseman was issued a two-minute minor for elbowing. Couture looked a bit uncomfortable after the hit, but was right back out there for the ensuing power play.

After the game, a 3-2 Sharks overtime win, he spoke about the borderline play.

“He got his elbow up in my head. It's a penalty,” Couture said. “If they're going to run around and make hits like that, they're going to the penalty box, and I'm sure [Oilers coach Todd McLellan is] not too happy with that. So, it's part of the game, part of hockey, getting hit – and they took a lot of penalties tonight.”

As for Couture’s overall game, he was noticeably off. Afterwards, he said: “I just wasn't very good.”

Although he hit the post on a first period power play, taking time in the circle to pick his spot before firing the puck, he was scoreless with just one shot on goal and three missed shots in more than 20 minutes of ice time. He was kept off of the penalty kill.

Still, just being in the lineup was an accomplishment, as Couture’s mouth was rearranged on March 25 when a deflected puck knocked more than half a dozen teeth from his mouth and missed the final seven regular season games. He has a summer of dental work ahead.

"I think it was just good to handle the puck and feel the pressure,” he said. “Two-and-a-half weeks doesn't sound like a long time, but it is a long time when you don't play games. For me, I enjoy handling the puck, and I was just off with timing and stick-handling and making plays, receiving passes. Everything wasn't there.”

“I wasn't very effective, but happy to get a game under my belt. I can play a lot better than I did tonight. But the team won, and at this point of the year that's all that matters.”

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned on Thursday that Couture playing at all was a credit to his competitiveness after his brutal ordeal.

“I thought it was a gutsy performance by him," DeBoer said. "He has high standards for himself, which is what makes him great. If you knew what he had been through in the last month, the damage to his face, his mouth, what he’s been able to eat and drink and how little he slept – I thought it was a real gutsy performance. I didn’t think he was nearly as bad as he thought he was.”

“Let’s be honest, this guy is a world-class player. At 75 percent he’s still better than most guys in the lineup. And the fact that he wanted to be out there and play, he’s a playoff-type player. I don’t think it was an accident he led the league in playoff scoring last year. He wasn’t going to be kept out of the game last night.”

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

SAN JOSE -- There was a plethora of storylines coming out of the Sharks’ crazy 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Almost all of them were eclipsed by Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal.

With the score tied up 4-4 in the waning minutes of regulation, the towering forward receiving a magnificent cross-ice pass from linemate Marcus Sorensen before sending the puck past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros into the back of the net

The energy at the Tank after the goal was electric. As his teammates swarmed him in celebration, Thornton was full of emotion as his 400th marker put the Sharks on top 5-4.

“I was on the ice, it was awesome,” Joe Pavelski said with a smile after the game. “It’s hard to put in perspective at times just what he’s been able to accomplish.”

The only thing making the goal even more impressive was that it put him on an exclusive list of seven players in NHL history who have scored 400 goals, tallied 1,000 assists, and played in over 1,500 games. Not surprisingly, though, Thornton told the media he was more focused on helping the team win than notching the milestone goal.

“Just trying to improve my game right now,” he said, a reminder to everyone he’s still battling back from those knee issues that sidelined him at the start of the season.

Wait, so he doesn’t know what highly-touted company he’s joined after scoring his 400th goal?

“No idea,” he admitted. “I haven’t checked to be honest with you.”

His teammates have been paying closer attention.

“It’s like every other night, there’s some kind of stat getting thrown out there,” Pavelski said of following his teammates' accomplishments. “They’re fun to look at, they really are.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has only been Thornton’s teammate for a little over a month. But since he has experience playing against No.19, he offered some perspective on what it was like for the Predators’ defense when Thornton came barreling down the ice.

“He’s one of those guys that you always have to be aware of,” Karlsson explained. “You always have to be aware of where he is because he’s such a good hockey player and if he gets the opportunities, you know he’s going to make you pay.”

Of course, the goal couldn’t have been made possible without the beautiful set-up from Sorensen, who Thornton has had a lot of success playing with as of late. 

“Marcus made a great play,” Thornton complimented. “I love playing with him. It seems like we’ve got some chemistry together now.”

When asked what it was like contributing to the milestone goal, Sorensen kept his answer straight-forward.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I’m happy for him.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


SAN JOSE -– There was no denying that Tuesday night’s rematch between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators would be a good game. But it’s likely that nobody expected just how lopsided this eventual nail-biter could get.

The Sharks jumped out to a convincing three-goal lead in the first period while the Predators looked tired and unable to create any offense. Then, the visitors rallied in the second stanza to notch three unanswered goals of their own, tying the score heading into the second intermission.

It looked as though Nashville would skate away to a one-goal victory halfway through the third, but Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton put two big goals on the board to give the home team the 5-4 victory.

To top everything off, the game-winner was Thornton’s 400th career goal.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s topsy-turvy game.

The Sharks' first period was amazing

The Sharks opened the game with the most dominant period of hockey they’ve played all season. It embodied everything the team has been saying it wants: Great puck possession, a strong defensive presence and contributions from all four lines.

The strong start was important, given the Predators were playing on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road and had just lost to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout the previous night. Nashville was visibly tired in the first frame, and San Jose took advantage.

That being said …

The second period was the opposite of amazing

It was like a completely different Sharks team took the ice in the second period. They played a looser game and gave the Predators an opportunity to get back into the contest – not something a team wants to do against a squad with an 8-0-1 road record.

San Jose’s biggest problem in those 20 minutes was not being able to capitalize on any power-play opportunities. The Sharks even had a five-on-three opportunity after the Predators were called for having too many men on the ice. But through 3:40 on the man advantage, San Jose didn’t register a single shot on goal.

The third-period push is alive and well

If there’s one thing the Sharks are good at, it’s making that big third-period push when they’re on their heels. Sometimes it’s too little too late. It came at just the right time Tuesday. 

Goaltender Martin Jones made his best saves at the end of the game. He was particularly impressive when Nashville pulled its goalie with less than two minutes left in the game, and the Predators' forwards swarmed into San Jose’s zone.

Of course, the highlight of the game came on the final goal, when Thornton seemed to skate up to Nashville’s net in slow motion after getting a spectacular feed from Marcus Sorensen. Predators netminder Juuse Saros appeared to not even see Thornton’s milestone marker float past him stick side.