Couture shows off to Canada as Sharks beat Oilers in a shootout, 4-3

Alberta refuses to export images of hockey defeat; bloggers forced to use photos from other games. - USA TODAY Sports

Couture feels disrespected by Canada, scores two goals and adds a fake one in the shootout to sweep the season series with the Oilers.

Tonight’s game did not begin well.

There were back-to-back odd-man rushes by the Oilers, stemming from misplays by defensemen. The Oilers possessed the puck the majority of the time, skating figurative and literal circles around the Sharks with their superior speed. The Sharks were committing lazy penalties; an interference call on Douglas Murray and a tripping call on Dan Boyle. The Oilers even scored on the Boyle penalty, an uncovered Sam Gagner ripping a shot past Niemi from the top of the circles as Patrick Marleau overcommitted to the other side.

But then the Sharks woke up.

Just a few minutes after that lazy power play goal, the second line of Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Marty Havlat kicked into gear. The trio collapsed around Devan Dubnyk’s net and whacked at the puck until it went in. It was the definition of a blue collar goal, and what kicked the game into high gear.

The entire game featured a lot of back and forth, but once the Sharks broke the seal and scored, the intensity and play by both teams was incredibly reminiscent of a playoff game, with one exception.* Players’ helmets were being removed left and right, as if everyone wanted to go back to the 1970s. The referees completely swallowed their whistles in the final ten minutes of the third period.

*LOL SHOOTOUTS

The referees struggled a bit tonight. Besides the obligatory goalie interference disparity that Sharks fans know and love, there were a few calls the refs got wrong. Lennart Petrell interfered with Tommy Wingels for a good ten seconds or so in the form of hugging Wingels on the opposite end of the rink from the puck. Brent Burns got away with a blatant crosscheck in front of Dubnyk. Neither referee noticed Niemi had lost his mask. The most confusing penalty was a borderline interference call on Havlat, which Taylor Hall might have sold a little bit. In stating his disagreement with the call, Havlat was given another 2 and a 10 for unsportsmanlike conduct from probably the thinnest-skinned referee ever (or a baseball umpire, same thing).

Edmonton’s second goal came off a post-penalty kill rush. Both teams had great opportunities right as their players came out of the box, but only the Oilers scored on theirs. Nick Schultz got the puck, passed it to Horcoff, who shot it past Niemi glove-side. While it would have been preferable to see Niemi save it, the goal was one of those "everything that could go wrong, did" goals.

Edmonton’s third goal was pure laziness. Joe Pavelski cleanly won the faceoff in the Sharks zone back to Irwin and Boyle. Irwin gathered the puck lazily, at which point Ryan Jones stripped it and scored on a wrap-around on a not-ready Niemi. Both Irwin and Niemi would have liked to have a mulligan on that one.

That is to say, Irwin did not totally suffer from the curse of a dedicated Fear the Fin article, as many do. At the end of a first, Irwin blocked a hard slapshot. He then broke up a pass in his zone and started a clean breakout for the Sharks. Irwin then hobbled off the ice.

At this point, it seemed as though the Sharks were dead in the water; with how the season has been going, that would normally be the case. But Logan Couture saw differently.

For his second goal of the night, Couture dug the puck out of a pile-up in front of Dubnyk and passed the puck back to Dan Boyle, who was in the high slot. Boyle passed it back to Couture, who one-timed it past Dubnyk.

Just over two minutes later, the Sharks’ third line made a welcome appearance. After hard work in the corners by T.J. Galiardi and Scott Gomez to gain possession of the puck, Tommy Wingels fired a snap shot from the top of the faceoff circle past Dubnyk in a no-doubt goal.

The rest of the game and the overtime period were scoreless, as the refs let everything and anything go. And so, for the eighth time in 29 games - or 27% of the time - the Sharks went to the shootout.*

*As pointed out by Derek on Twitter, of course the one time that Handzus is scratched the game goes to a shootout.

Niemi and Dubnyk traded saves in the first round, Niemi closing up the five-hole on Gagner and Pavelski shooting right into Dubnyk’s chest. Jordan Eberle wristed a shot blocker-side past Niemi that went post and in. Couture answered Eberle’s wrister with an impressive snipe past Dubnyk’s glove to tie it up.

In the deciding round, Hemsky attempted to go backhand, which Niemi stretched out to deny with the pad. Dan Boyle - who tends to be a shoot-first shootout shooter - faked a forehand shot before dangling around a downed Dubnyk and sliding in a shot past the prone goalie for the win.

This was only the second time the Sharks had come back to win after trailing entering the third period this season. This was a statement game by the Sharks, even if the win did come in the shootout.

Thoughts:

Mark Fistric attempted a knee-on-knee hit on Andrew Desjardins. Desjardins deftly avoided the hit, and somehow Fistric hurt himself in the process. The word "karma" comes to mind.

Douglas Murray was not very good tonight. There were at least two instances Murray chose to lay a hit on the puck carrier, ignoring the obvious odd-man-rush his defense partner would have to contend with.

Speaking of which, for whatever reason, the defense pair of Douglas Murray and Brad Stuart played a significant portion of the overtime period.

Logan Couture, post-game: "Go home in the summer, and all you hear is about is all their young guys. I want to get out there and show them what I have and that I'm a decent player too." He had a Fez trick tonight, and should have been first star.

Brent Burns is a ferocious forechecker. His pressure on Oilers players probably ate up a minute of the game alone.

Sharks sweep the season series with the Oilers, which is nice.

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