SAN JOSE – After becoming the fourth youngest player in NHL history to score four goals in a game, Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl said (and we’re paraphrasing his English here), that it’s like he’s in a dream.
Head coach Todd McLellan, unaware of what Hertl had said just a few minutes earlier, essentially echoed his young star when asked if there’s something about the 19-year-old that the world outside the dressing room hasn’t yet seen.
“No, I think you’re seeing it all. He’s a passionate young man, and I’m not even sure if he realizes where he is,” McLellan said.
Where he is, is smack dab in the middle of a dominant start for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-0 on the season with a 9-2 drubbing of the New York Rangers. Along with Hertl’s four goals, rookie Matt Nieto, Joe Pavelski and Jason Demers had three-point nights and 15 different Sharks players recorded at least one point. San Jose has outscored its opposition 17-4 this season.
While Hertl and the Sharks were in dream mode, the game was a nightmare for the Rangers and new head coach Alain Vigneault. Playing the second of a back-to-back after beating the Kings on Monday, New York looked lethargic and sluggish, and the Sharks took full advantage.
“Yeah, they were probably tired from coming in last night and playing L.A.,” Joe Thornton said. “Just a combination of a long night for them, and we always seem to be ready here at home.”
The Sharks erased an early 1-0 deficit with a shorthanded goal by Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 4:23 of the first, and added another with Dan Boyle’s marker three-and-a-half minutes later. A 2-1 lead increased to 6-1 in the second period, when the Sharks scored four times in just over four minutes, including Hertl’s first two of the night.
“Our start was going to be important. We didn’t get what we wanted, but I thought our energy in the second period really took over,” McLellan said. “We out-changed them a little bit, and were able to get a lot of pucks to the net, and retrieve them for second opportunities.”
While the game was basically over at that point, the excitement from Hertl was just beginning. In the third period, after the Rangers made it 6-2 on Derek Dorsett’s breakaway, Hertl’s power play goal completed the hat trick and fans flooded the ice with all sorts of headgear.
But it was his fourth goal that will be remembered. Just minutes after the ice crew had cleared the frozen surface of hats, Hertl took a pass from Demers at the offensive blue line and raced in alone on net. His between-the-legs shot over the shoulder of Martin Biron brought the crowd to its feet once again, and multiple replays of the goal on the in-arena jumbotron brought more and more gasps and ovations with every showing.
Whether Hertl should have tried such an ostentatious move with the score already 7-2 is debatable, but, predictably, no one in the Sharks locker room had a problem with it.
“He's out there just playing. That's the bottom line. He's playing,” Pavelski said. “It's a great goal, really. What can you say? Obviously, it's going to make a few people mad, probably. Hopefully not. But, he's got a lot of skill, and that's what he chose to do. It was great to see."
McLellan said: “Our game needs a little bit of that. And, again, it’s that innocence that he has. He doesn’t completely understand where he is, and he’s playing free.”
He’s doing more than that. And if Hertl does feel like he's dreaming, the Sharks hope he doesn’t wake up any time soon.
Per Elias Sports, Hertl became the youngest player to score four goals in a game since March 30, 1988, when Jimmy Carson scored four for the Kings. … Hertl is the first Sharks player to score six goals in his first three career games. … Owen Nolan is the only other Sharks player to score four goals in a game (12/19/95 at Anaheim) . … Nieto’s first career goal ended up as the game-winner. … Demers’ three points was a new career high. … The Sharks scored nine goals in a game for the sixth time in franchise history.