Closing out their five-game homestand, the Sharks saw a light on offense.
A pair of San Jose’s five goals Tuesday night came courtesy of the advantage, which it used to seize control. The Sharks (2-3-0, 4 points) scored on two of their seven power plays after have now scored on six of 21 chances (28.6 percent) coming off a season in which they converted on just 16.7 percent of power play opportunities — sixth-worst in the league.
Head coach Peter DeBoer said his squad showed improvement, especially on the power play:
“We’re four games in, so I don’t want to stand up here and say everything is fixed. There’s some positive things happening with (both the power play and penalty kill) that I feel good about we just have to keep building it.”
The Sharks struck early in the first period as defenseman Justin Braun sent a shot wide right that quickly ricocheted back to Couture in front of the net. Less than four minutes into the game, the San Jose center began his big night with his second goal of the young season.
Couture said the team’s goal going in was to contain Montreal’s speed and keep the puck in their zone:
“We wanted to force them to play defense, use the big bodies that we have up front. … It’s difficult when the flow’s broken up by power plays both ways, but for the most part 5-on-5 we did a good job.”
Before Sharks fans finished celebrating Couture’s goal, Montreal center Jonathan Drouin received a pass from winger Artturi Lehkon and managed to lift the puck over Martin Jones‘ blocker to tie the game at one. And it all unfolded in a matter of 16 seconds.
The Canadiens (1-4-1, 3 points) pressured San Jose late in the first period sending a shot off of the post, but Jones kept the score even. The San Jose net-minder finished his stellar night with saves on 28 of 30 Montreal shots on goal. His opposite number, Canadien goalie Carey Price saved 30 shots.
The Sharks’ offense came alive in the second period, attacking in a way they had been missing through the first four games. Despite notching just eight shots in the first period, the Sharks went on to record 20 in the second.
Just 53 seconds into the second period, a Kevin Labanc shot from the point was redirected off center Joe Pavelski‘s skate and again off Montreal defenseman Shea Weber‘s knee, past Price and into the net.
Hertl was shocked the puck was tipped in, but said it made up for him hitting the post on another couple rebounds.
“[Sometimes you] get some lucky goals. … sometimes you need it. I’ll take it.”
The Sharks sent Montreal on a power play just over ten minutes into the second period, and would prove to be costly. While on the man-advantage Weber redeemed himself after he blistered a one-timer passed Jones.
Couture scored the game-winning goal 13:24 into the second period when Pavelski kicked the puck out in front of the Montreal goal. Thornton put to bed any thoughts of a Montreal comeback with an empty-netter in the closing minute.
The Sharks will play five road games over the next 11 days, starting with a trip to New Jersey where they will face the early Eastern Division-leading Devils (5-1-0, 10 points) Friday.