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Winning Play: Labanc’s no-look, Couture’s “world-class” work

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Oct 18, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (62) shoots against the Buffalo Sabres in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but when it was, the San Jose Sharks’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers was absolutely gorgeous.

Two San Jose plays stood out on Saturday night: Kevin Labanc’s no-look pass to Joe Pavelski on the power play and Logan Couture’s 200-foot masterpiece that set up Timo Meier’s game winner.

Before scoring on Thursday, Labanc (62) had contributed just two assists over his previous eight contests. The winger continued to put that slump in his rearview mirror tonight with a pair of assists, highlighted by this power play feed to Pavelski (8):

”I was thinking about shooting it the whole way,” admitted Labanc.

So what changed?

The 22-year-old observed, “I saw their middle guy take his stick out of the lane.”

Labanc was referring to Radko Gudas (3). When Labanc received the puck at the right point, Gudas’s stick was in the middle of the lane.

But as Labanc walked down and showed shot, the Flyers, including Gudas, shaded toward him. Labanc’s eyes betrayed nothing:

”I kind of saw [Pavelski] out the corner of my eye,” said Labanc. “He was wide open.”

Then, in overtime, Couture (39) made what Pete DeBoer called a “world-class play by a world-class player.”

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the three-zone work showcased by Couture on this shift.

Off the draw, Claude Giroux (28) managed to get inside position for the loose puck on Couture. Nevertheless, Couture stuck with it.

He was aided by Erik Karlsson’s (65) 0-to-65 burst. Notice, when Giroux turned the corner on Couture, how a deliberate Karlsson suddenly closed the path along the wall. This forced Giroux to cut back toward the middle, which slowed him down and gave Couture the chance to recover and stick the puck away.

As the puck slid across the neutral zone, Couture then had to contend with Jakub Voracek (93). Voracek had a little head start, but Couture turned on the jets, forcing his opponent to do the same.

Couture broke down the battle, “He tried to fend me off with one arm. He tried to put his [weight] onto me. I was able to get some leverage on the inside.

”He went to one hand on his stick. I was able to get my stick around and lift his.”

DeBoer added, “You’re not beating a nobody there. You’re beating an unbelievable player on that play.”

It’s also worth noting that the 6-foot-2 Voracek is tough to knock off the puck.

“He’s a really strong guy,” mentioned a reporter.

Couture smiled back, “I think I am too.”

”Logan’s a big moment player,” said DeBoer. “We’re lucky to have him.”