The San Jose Sharks have developed a new habit, and it has led to a nice little winning streak.
Sharks captain Logan Couture returned to the ice and scored a miraculous game-winner in overtime as his team beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Jan. 11 at SAP Center. If this score sounds familiar, it’s because the Sharks have won three consecutive games by that exact tally. First, they beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Jan. 6, then the Philadelphia Flyers two days later on Tomas Hertl’s third-period natural hat trick. If this continues, San Jose might 3-2 win their way right into the playoff bracket.
As things stand at the moment, the Sharks get to celebrate playing well, starting their homestand on a positive note and getting some revenge on the Red Wings for an ugly 6-2 loss in Detroit a week earlier. They even managed to dodge a fake octopus thrown on the ice in the closing moments.
Dramatic Return for the Captain
Couture missed three games while on the COVID-19 protocol list, so just having the team captain back in uniform was a positive. His unusual and exciting goal while lying on his back to clinch the victory was an awesome bonus for the Sharks fans and his squad.
San Jose defenseman Brent Burns looked as if he was going to be the hero for a moment, and he did end up with a three-assist game. He flipped a shot into the crease and off the body of Detroit goaltender Alex Nedeljekovic, who lost track of the puck as it slowly trickled across the crease and toward the net. Couture, who was tangled up with two Red Wings, went down to ice but was able to sweep the puck in to end the game 1:10 into OT.
There was a delay while the officials checked whether Sharks forward Jonathan Dahlen was offside, but the goal stood up.
The most impressive part of the play was Couture’s ability to make a play with all the commotion going on around him, including the octopus, which was ruled not to be part of the play. Couture has been potent on his home ice, with 11 points in his last 10 home games.
Sharks Continue to Own OT
If the Sharks do make a playoff run, their success in overtime will be a big reason why it happens.
San Jose is an impressive 6-0 in OT, and have won two in a row in the extra period. For a team trying to play catchup in the postseason race, these are crucial points, according to head coach Bob Boughner.
“Those are huge because those are the points you’re looking at the end of the season,” Bob Boughner said. “It’s nice to see us in these close games, comfortable in these close games and finding ways to win.”
The Sharks look extremely confident when a game goes past regulation, and there was a marked difference in the energy level compared to the Red Wings. San Jose simply expects to win these games.
S.J. Proves It Can Strike Back Quickly
Among the more impressive moments for the Sharks was right after they fell behind early in the third period. At that point, they had outplayed Detroit thoroughly but were held to one goal by Nedeljekovic, who was terrific and had 37 saves.
Detroit tied the game in the second period and took the lead early in the third on a soft goal by Nick Leddy, who casually skated through the neutral zone and caught San Jose goalie Adin Hill off guard. The Sharks were suddenly trailing a game they had been dominating.
Jeffrey Viel provided a gritty answer to Leddy’s goal just 1:20 later. Just as Couture would do a bit later, Viel scored while down on the ice. He slid down onto the ice and into Nedeljekovic as the puck went into the net. It was clearly incidental contact with the goalie, the Detroit bench chose not to challenge the play.
It was Viel’s second goal of the season, and his quick response stopped the Red Wings from gaining any additional momentum.
Raska Makes His NHL Debut
Adam Raska received his first taste of the NHL, and the 20-year-old forward fared quite well.
He only logged 6:54 of ice time but was active with three hits and a plus-minus rating of plus-1. Raska has six points and a plus-3 rating in 21 games with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL.
He can only hope that many of his games in the NHL go as well as his first one.
Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.