Sharks power past Blues 5-3, rookie center Logan Couture left game with lower body injury in 2nd period

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks Antti Niemi St Louis Blues Carlo Colaiacovo NHL hockey

San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle St Louis Blues TJ Hensik

San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski hat trick Dan Boyle

The Sharks earned another critical two points in the standings with a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion on Saturday night, but it may have come at a high cost. 1:04 into the second period center Logan Couture came hard at a loose puck along the end boards trying to beat RW Adam Cracknell and defenseman Roman Polak. Couture lost an edge and collided awkwardly into the wall. He was helped off the ice by linemates Ryane Clowe and Ben Eager. Couture was listed as doubtful with a lower body injury and did not return to the game. Afterwards interim head coach Trent Yawney described his injury as day-to-day.

Prior to the injury the Sharks put up a dominant first period against the St. Louis Blues and earned a rare 3-0 lead. “I think we broke out clean right away,” Patrick Marleau said. “We didn’t spend too much time in our own end at the start. We should have done that for the rest of the game. That allowed us to get our forecheck going in the other end.”

When San Jose was struggling earlier in the season, head coach Todd McLellan stepped in front of the bulk of the criticism. He opted against punishing his team and instead chose to refocus on compete level and fundamental defensive hockey. With McLellan attending the funeral of a family member in Canada along with broadcaster Drew Remenda, the Sharks players stepped up on the ice in his absence. Assitant coach Trent Yawney, who registered a 33-55-15 record in parts of two seasons as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, carried on with a business as usual strategy.

The hard work continued, but while the grinding for McLellan mostly occured in the defensive zone, under Yawney the Sharks were grinding in the offensive zone. Torrey Mitchell’s opening goal came on an extended sequence where several players won individual battles in front of the net. Mitchell initially lost the puck when he tried to carry it to the net 1-on-2. Pavelski’s attempt to swarm on the rebound was disrupted with a check by BJ Crombeen. As Crombeen lifted his stick, TJ Oshie came over and played the body. Pavelski spun off contact and was able to beat defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the loose rebound in front. Pavelski lifted Shattenkirk’s stick, then got inside body position and sent the puck back across the crease. Defenseman Ian White pinched and hammered a hard right shot on goal. Jaroslav Halak made the initial save, but Pavelski slid over to hack at the rebound. As Pavelski was hammered to the ice, a trailing Mitchell got to the second rebound and lifted it over a down Halak.

“We seem to be working to open spaces well,” Torrey Mitchell said of the success his line is having with Joe Pavelski and Kyle Wellwood. “There is a lot of good communication when we are out on the ice. That is a huge difference for us. A lot of talk, we have some speed and some skill to add to that. We have just been finding those open areas, and Pavs and Welly are pretty patient with the puck.”

St Louis Blues head coach David Payne pointed to a defensive lapse on the Sharks first goal. “We didn’t have the right amount of detail in our positional play earlier, against a team that can possess the puck in your own zone like San Jose can,” Payne said. “We got on the wrong side of people and gave up the first goal on d-zone coverage.”

After Halak was called for a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, Patrick Marleau wound up on a big point shot that found the back of the net. Pavelski was initially credited with the tip, but after the game it was determined that the puck went in clean. As the San Jose Sharks twitter account noted, it was Pavelski who lobbied officials to make the scoring change. BJ Crombeen took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty nearly 2 minutes later, and this time Pavelski wristed a power play shot off the crossbar and past Halak. Jaroslav Halak was done for the night, pulled for backup goaltender Ty Conklin.

The early second period injury to Couture cast a pall on the ice, but the Sharks players reacted with composure and did not let St. Louis gain any momentum. “I think the two points are what’s big, especially when the coach is gone,” Pavelski said of the overall effort. “(McLellan) set the foundation for us. The coaches stepped in and did a great job. We were ready to play.” Pavelski also said that after an early barrage, the Sharks needed to refocus on their game down the stretch. “There were times the game came easy to us and we got away from they way we want to play, and what makes us successful. We got away from the forecheck. It is something we always try to stay on. When you build a lead, you do play a little softer. You don’t want to give them anything free.”

The Blues fired 15 shots on Antti Niemi in the first period, and they would add another 15 in the second. The best scoring opportunity came on a broken play. After a Matt D’Agostini took a breakout pass from the red line to the Sharks blueline, D’Agostini split Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray to get a shot on goal. Niemi covered the net low to make the save, but the puck popped up in the air and neither Niemi nor Murray saw it. It bounced in front of the net, and an opportunistic TJ Hensick swooped in and swept it into the back of the net. The play flustered Murray somewhat, who had a difficult time on two subsequent clearing attempts.

The Sharks kept coming, and Devin Setoguchi gave the Sharks a 4-1 lead with a high wrist shot that deflected off traffic and in. Blues alternate captain David Backes nearly broke his stick swinging it in frustration after the goal, and several Blues players looked angered on the ice after letting this game get out of hand. With front line talent David Perron, Alex Steen, Barret Jackman and Vladimir Sobotka out of the lineup, the Blues have been struggling to put up consistent offense. Throw out wins against Columbus and Edmonton, and the Blues have sank like a stone in the standings losing 11 of 13. Past St. Louis teams have reacted bitterly to embrassment on the ice, and it nearly came to pass later in the second when Ryan Reaves and Cam Janssen repeatedly cross checked a prone Jason Demers in front of the Blues bench. Ryane Clowe came over with malice and forethought, but Clowe and Reaves were sent off with matching minors for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was a level of play that would flare up the rest of the game.

The Sharks kept pushing, and Joe Pavelski apparently scored his 100th career goal to seal a hat trick at 19:54. A Dan Boyle point shot was deflected by Pavelski in front. Fans tossed their hats on to the ice, but after the game a scoring correction would give one of the first period Pavelski goals to Marleau. The Blues were able to gain momentum in the third period, and turnovers lead to goals by David Backes and Andy McDonald.

“I think they have been doing all the things Todd (McLellan) has been preaching over the course of probably the last month,” Trent Yawney said after becoming 1-0 as a head coach of the San Jose Sharks. “I thought we shot the puck early. That team doesn’t give up a lot, and haven’t given up a lot. I thought we broke them down by shooting the puck. Todd has been emphasizing that over the course of the last month or so.” Yawney also noted the adjustments in the absence of Couture, moving Wellwood up for some shifts, and giving other players more opportunities. AHL callups Brandon Mashinter and Andrew Desjardins played a larger than usual role in the third period. “They are a proud team, they work hard,” Yawney said of the struggling Blues team. “We knew that before the game, and we knew that in the third period. They didn’t disappoint. They kept coming at us hard, and they kept trying to tie the game.”

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Blues’ short-term future is murky – St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Concern that the Blues might be unable to add significant payroll to the budget this offseason grew into consternation last week when Dave Checketts officially announced that the team is for sale.

[Update2] Aftermath of 5-3 win over the Blues: No details on Couture’s injury, Pavelski loses his hat trick – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.

[Update3] Logan Couture commented on his injury via twitter Saturday night: “it isn’t as bad as it looked or first felt. Hope to be back soon!”

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