SAN JOSE, CA – For only the second time this season, the Sharks have compiled a three-game winning streak. That’s correct, the usually dominant San Jose squad has now put together just a pair of three-game winning streaks.
But with their win over the Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks will have a chance to reach their first four-game streak of the season on Thursday.
Although if it wasn’t for rookie sensation Logan Couture’s unbelievable performance against Edmonton, the Sharks might not have been able to take this winning streak forward.
Midway through the second period with the game scoreless, the Oilers went on an extended 5-on-3 power-play when both Niclas Wallin and Scott Nichol were in the penalty box.
Couture would be the second Sharks forward to come out on the two man-disadvantage, and after a hard working shift, the rookie forced a turnover inside his own blue-line and had nothing but open ice in front of him. Despite being gassed at the end of his shift, Couture was able to out-hustle Oilers’ rookie and first overall pick Taylor Hall into the Edmonton zone, drawing a holding penalty that Logan thought should have been a penalty shot.
“I thought it should of been a penalty shot, but obviously they called the penalty, and we’ll take that,” Couture said.
Either way, the impressive burst of speed from the Sharks’ center proved critical, and with the minor being awarded instead of the penalty shot, the remaining Edmonton power play was wiped out and the Sharks would seize momentum.
Just a few minutes later, Couture opened the scoring when he made a nice steal in the neutral zone and delivered a head-man pass to linemate Ryane Clowe. “Coutch,” as he’s known by his teammates, drove hard to the net and turned the play into a two-on-one with his hustle and Clowe hit him with a perfect pass.
“Can’t ask for a better pass,” Couture said. “Not too many players in this world can make passes like that… all the credit goes to him on the goal, I just went to the net with my stick on the ice.”
Ryane Clowe had equal praise for Couture, and was more than willing to once again talk about his rookie linemate.
“He’s great to play with… he’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever played with,” Clowe said. “He spins quick, he turns quick and he’s got real good hands… the plays I make to him, he’s scoring.”
Couture’s hard work in the middle frame may have been what the team, and more specifically the top power play unit, needed to get going.
A little over two minutes after Couture’s tally, Dan Boyle put the Sharks ahead by two while on the man-advantage. After struggling on their first three power-plays, Boyle found some skating room at the point and wristed a shot that skipped through a screen and past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin at the 16:43 mark.
The power-play wasn’t as strong as the Sharks’ would have hoped over the course of the night, but the one they did get proved to be huge insurance. Boyle’s fourth of the year would end up being the game-winner as the Oilers got a late goal from Dustin Penner with Khabibulin pulled for an extra skater. The goal would ruin Antero Niittymaki’s bid for his first shutout as a Shark, but a deflection through a screen was nearly impossible to stop.
Talking about his goaltender, Boyle put it best by simply saying “he [Niittymaki] made the saves when he needed to,” a point that shouldn’t be overlooked. While the shutout would have been nice, both Niittymaki and Antti Niemi have been consistently giving the Sharks a chance by doing just that, “making the saves when they need to.”
Over the last dozen or so games, not a single off-performance from either of the netminders. And combining that strong play between the pipes with an increased scoring punch, it is no surprise why the Sharks have a chance coming up to reach their longest winning streak of the season.
Even though head coach Todd McLellan juggled the lines throughout the Edmonton game, numerous different combinations provided quality chances. No matter what the lines, and no matter who’s between the pipes, the Sharks look to be turning the corner and might now finally make their move up to the top of the muddled Western Conference standings.