SAN JOSE — In what was otherwise a sound, convincing victory over a team (St. Louis) essentially out of the playoff picture, the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room was noticeably temperate afterward—mostly because of what happened early in the second period.
Just over a minute into the second stanza, Sharks rookie sensation and second line center Logan Couture took an awkward fall into the end boards trying to come to a stop on the forecheck. Couture’s right skate slammed hard into the boards and San Jose’s second leading scorer hobbled off the ice with teammates on either side helping him to the bench before passing him off to members of the training staff.
“Lower-body, day-to-day,” said Sharks’ assistant coach Trent Yawney (who was filling in for the absent Todd McLellan).
As per usual, the coach wouldn’t elaborate. But if one had to venture a guess to the severity of the injury, the best estimate is that Couture will be out for the remainder of the season and playoffs.
Joe Pavelski, who scored his first career hat-trick in the 5-3 victory over St. Louis has always been quick to deflect credit to his teammates but like the rest of the Sharks, No. 8 appeared much less enthusiastic than on might expect given the team and personal success.
“Yeah, you could see he was in pain,” said Pavelski of Couture’s injury. “He’s meant a lot to this team, he’s been great.”
Couture, who has already broken the Sharks’ record for rookie goal scoring, had picked up four points in his previous five games before suffering the injury on Saturday night. His presence has allowed, Pavelski, a clear-cut top-six level forward to center the de facto “third line” for Sharks, giving the team a level of forward depth previously not seen in the Sharks’ 20-year history.
But if Couture is to miss an extended amount of time, which seems inevitable, Pavelski will almost certainly have to part from his current linemates of Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood who have been consistently dominant in the offensive zone the last dozen or so games.
Part of having depth means a team is better equipped to handle these injuries but at the same time, the Sharks have been criticized for not having enough offensive punch from their bottom six forwards in years past.
If it weren’t for the downing circumstances of an injury, Pavelski’s night would have been the leading story. Not only did the right-handed shooting center record his first career hat-trick but he picked up an assist on the opening goal by Torrey Mitchell for another four point night, his second of the variety in his past four games in which overall he has collected a whopping 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists).
“Points are coming and were playing good,” Pavelski said. “It’s not just points, it’s offensive time, feel confident with the puck.”
Pavelski’s 12 points over the last four games now gives him 58 on the year in 65 games, increasing his points per game rate to .89, which would stand as a new career high.
Thanks in large part to Pavelski’s performance, the Sharks staked themselves to a 3-0 first period lead on goals by Mitchell, and two by Pavelski, the first of which was originally credited to Patrick Marleau.
But this game wouldn’t be exactly smooth sailing for team teal. For the first time in 18 games, the Sharks would actually be out-shot by their opponent, “losing” in the popular stat category by a final count of 45-34.
Despite facing deficits of 3-0 and 5-1, the Blues kept fighting. In the first period they were down 3-0 and being outshot 15-9 at one point but finished the period with a late flurry that came up empty but saw the shot total even up at 15 a piece.
In the middle frame the Blues got on the board when a stretch pass from defenseman Ian Cole in his own zone found a streaking Matt D’Agostini for a semi breakaway. Antti Niemi made the original save but the rebound bounced high in the air where neither he nor defenseman Douglas Murray could locate it. Subsequently when the puck dropped back down. it landed at the skate TJ Hensick, who kicked it forward but not on goal. The puck however went off murray’s skate and slid into the gaping net behind Niemi.
While the Blues came right back with a dominant shift after their goal, Devin Setoguchi re-established San Jose’s three-goal advantage only a few minutes later when a shot from the point glanced of a Blues’ stick in front.
And once again right after the Blues created some momentum, the Sharks would find a way to get the goal that St. Louis simply couldn’t find. With only five seconds remaining in the second, Pavelski picked up his hat trick goal, getting his stick on point shot from Dan Boyle and re-directing it past Ty Conklin.
But outside of San Jose’s two goals, the second period was largely dictated by St. Louis who–while essentially out of the playoff picture–managed to give the Sharks a tremendous effort.
The final period in fact saw the Blues take over completely, as the Sharks sat back on the lead. St. Louis outshot San Jose 15-5 in the final 20 minutes, and got goals by David Backes midway through and by Andy McDonald with just under a couple minutes remaining to pull within 5-3.
“Proud team, they work hard, and they didn’t disappoint us,” Yawney said about the Blues. “They kept coming at us hard”