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Couture's OT winner gains ground
Sharks chasing Knights for Pacific Division crown
3/22/18 - By Mike Lee -

If the Sharks were going to make a run for the Pacific Division title, they had to beat the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night. They did that, taking a thrilling 2-1 decision in overtime, but the fact that they needed extra hockey may have cost them in the end. The extra session resulted in two points in the standings for the Sharks, but by virtue of the Knights recording a point for their overtime loss, San Jose still trails Vegas by 7 points with 8 games to play.

San Jose will get another shot at Vegas a week from Saturday, when they travel to Nevada to face the Knights for the fourth and final time this regular season. Thursday night's game was a tug-of-war between the two teams. Each traded goals in regulation before Logan Couture put a backhand chance past Malcolm Subban 39 seconds into the overtime period.

Couture carried a Marc-Edouard Vlasic feed up the left wing and flipped his backhand shot on net as he cut from left to right across the slot. The puck may have clipped David Perron's stick in mid-flight before sailing past Subban's right shoulder. The goal was Couture's 31st of the season.

What may be more important than the ground the Sharks gained on Vegas is the space they put between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Neither Southern California foe seems to be going away in the race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Los Angeles beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 and Anaheim beat the Calgary Flames 4-0 24 hours earlier.

With the win, San Jose maintained their 4 point lead over the Kings and a 5 point lead over the Ducks.

The Knights match up with San Jose would make for one heck of a playoff match up if Thursday's game is any indication of what's to be expected.

The Knights took advantage of Justin Braun's biggest deficiencies. That being the ability to stop opposing players from scoring, which is an issue if you're an NHL defenseman. Former Detroit Red Wing Tomas Tatar had the luxury of being defended by Braun, so he promptly dropped the Shark defenseman and made a bee-line for the Sharks net. Jonathan Marchessault hit Tatar in stride, before the Knights defenseman slipped the puck past Martin Jones for his 19th goal of the season.

San Jose almost handed the Knights a second goal when Melker Karlsson sent a pass to the slot from his own zone. Alex Tuch intercepted it and promptly raced toward the Sharks net and fired a shot that just missed wide right.

A pair of interference penalties offset a Knights power play, but it allowed the Sharks to start directing some pucks toward Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban.

San Jose tied the game 3:27 into the 2nd period when Brent Burns ripped a shot from the blueline that found a seam. Subban wasn't screened directly on the play, but the traffic in front of the net may have distracted him enough to all Burns to pot his 11th goal of the season.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was almost decapitated by a Colin Miller high stick, which resulted in a 4 minute power play on a double minor. San Jose did nothing with the chance, and allowed a second short-handed breakaway while on the man advantage. They gave up a similar short-handed chance to Vegas during an Erik Haula penalty a period earlier.

San Jose's failure to capitalize on the power play might inevitably the reason the Sharks miss out on the division title. The Sharks enjoyed 6 chances to score on the man advantage and they failed on every try.

Their disjointed approach seemed to offer the opposition more offensive opportunity then their own. With the playoffs on the horizon, San Jose needs to figure out how to start scoring on the man advantage, or it's going to be a significant problem for them in the NHL's second season.

Game Notes:

* Brent Burns led all skaters with 10 shots on goal. Compare that to the 25 shots that Vegas recorded, the Sharks defensman was a one-man wrecking crew.

* Mikkel Boedker and Paul Martin were the only Sharks not to record a shot on goal. With only three defensive pairs, Martin continues to be the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He logged a mere 10:29 of ice time on 15 shifts.

* Even after going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, the Sharks have only gained 3 points on Vegas. The Knights have won 6 of 9 games to go along with Thursday's overtime loss.





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Scoring
1 2 3 OT T
VGK 1 0 0 0 1
SJ 0 1 0 1 2
1st period - 1, VGK, Tatar 19 (Marchessault, Theodore), 3:47.
2nd period - 2, SJ, Burns 11 (Martin, Hansen), 3:27.
3rd period - None.
Overtime - 3, SJ, Couture 31 (Vlasic, Hertl), 0:39.
Penalties
1st period - Couture, SJ (interference), 15:12. Haula, VGK (interference), 16:25.
2nd period - Miller, VGK (high sticking - double minor), 5:07; Perron, VGK (tripping), 18:53.
3rd period - McNabb, VGK (throwing stick), 0:29; Labanc, SJ (interference), 5:44; Miller, VGK (cross checking), 6:35.
Overtime - None.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
VGK - Subban 44 42
SJ - Jones 25 24
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 OT T
VGK 11 4 7 3 25
SJ 13 18 12 1 44
Power Play Conversion
VGK 0 of 2
SJ 0 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Brent Burns
Malcolm Subban
Logan Couture
Attendance
SAP Center - 17,562
Officials
Referees: Hanson, Lee. Linesmen: Nagy, Knorr.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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