SAN JOSE – One of the Sharks’ key offensive weapons broke out of a concerning slump, while another scored a stunning game-winning goal and is seemingly heating up.
Tomas Hertl’s first marker in nine games put the Sharks on the board, while Logan Couture’s deft third period deflection keyed a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night at SAP Center.
Couture’s marker at 11:50 of the third period was one of those goals that only one the league’s top scorers can convert. A wayward Justin Braun wrister was headed in his direction about five feet wide of the net, and Couture quickly tilted the blade of his stick at the perfect angle to redirect it over Jaroslav Halak. It went in and out of the net so quickly that a few of the players on the ice had no idea what had just happened.
“I was trying to tip it and get it up, but I was lucky it got in,” Couture said. "I saw it go off the back bar right away. I knew it was in. I think the play carried on for a couple of seconds, but I saw it went in.”
Todd McLellan said: "Cooch has great hands. … It was an impressive goal from that angle."
After getting just one assist in the first four games, Couture now leads the Sharks with six goals and has 11 points in his last nine games.
Hertl, meanwhile, didn’t let a demotion to the fourth line get him down. After talking in the morning about trying to do a better job of getting to the front of the net, he found his way there to bat in a pass from Tommy Wingels at 10:23 of the first period, tying the game at 1-1.
“I try all game, just [get to] the blue paint. I tried to go,” Hertl said. “First period I scored, so I hope so now I’ve started, I just keep going.”
The affable 20-year-old seemed genuinely dejected in the morning, in the midst of the first scoring slump of his life at any level. By the end of the night, that trademark grin had returned, and his teammates noticed.
“He’ll probably tell you he wishes we played again tomorrow night, now that he got one tonight. It’s good to see him score,” Wingels said. “I think everyone could see a big smile on his face after. Sometimes it only takes one goal to really get you going. We hope that’s the case with Tomas.”
McLellan liked Hertl’s game enough to move him off of the fourth line and up to the third line with Chris Tierney and Barclay Goodrow.
“I thought he skated and had a little more of an intensity to his game,” McLellan said.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the win was that San Jose managed to hold the speedy Islanders to just one goal despite losing defenseman Scott Hannan in the first period for unspecified reasons. Taking a peek at the ice time, the minutes for the remaining five blueliners were inflated, including Brent Burns (26:29) and Mirco Mueller (24:58).
The Sharks outshot the Islanders for the game, 31-20, despite a few shifts in the second period (by the fourth line of Adam Burish, Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard, in particular) in which San Jose was pinned in its own end.
Braun said: “It’s a little more difficult just working with different guys. I think we handled it well. It was good to get used to some other guys.”
“They didn't give up a lot. When we were in our end we weren't running around,” McLellan said. “I thought the five defensemen managed their ice time well, simplified their game a little bit more, allowed us to come away with a win. They handled themselves very well."
The Sharks recorded just their second home win of the season after dropping their previous two in regulation at SAP Center, where they haven’t gotten much of a chance to establish any rhythm due to their road-heavy schedule.
Now, they get some time off before difficult meetings with rivals Vancouver, Dallas and Chicago kick off on Thursday at home against the Canucks. Overall, the Sharks have gained seven of a possible eight points in the standings in their last four games (3-0-1).
McLellan said: “Our last couple of games weren't what we wanted them to be in our own building. It's nice to go into the break that way."
“That was a big win for us,” Couture said.