Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the other guy.
The San Jose Sharks came to Las Vegas Thursday without one of their top players, started their backup goaltender and were outshot by the Vegas Golden Knights. But they had Logan Couture available and he has been known to be a royal pain to the Knights in the three years these teams have gotten together.
Sure enough, the veteran center came through in overtime, knocking home the rebound of his own shot while on a breakaway to beat Marc-Andre Fleury and give San Jose a hard-fought but well-deserved 2-1 win at T-Mobile Arena.
“It was a big character win for us tonight, there were a lot of things stacked against us with some of the injuries and the lineup,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said, whose team was missing Tomas Hertl, their second leading scorer, then lost defenseman Radek Simek and forward Melker Karlsson to injuries during the game. “Obviously coming into this building, with what happened the last couple of times in here, I thought our guys dug deep and got contributions from everybody. I didn’t think we had any passengers tonight and obviously Aaron Dell gave us a big game.”
Couture has burned the Knights in the past and he delivered again in OT, scoring with 1:40 left in the extra session after the Knights had rallied from a 1-0 deficit to tie it midway through the third period on defenseman Brayden McNabb’s goal.
“I thought we played really well,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said as his team saw its modest two-game winning streak snapped in what was the third game of a four-game homestand. “Again, it’s a process, but I thought we played an excellent game. We had great chances. Aaron Dell was really good. Fleury was really good for us, but we just didn’t execute and bury our chances. We had lots of chances for sure.”
It was a fun game, played amid a festive atmosphere. Evander Kane, the Sharks forward who is Public Enemy No. 1 with Knights fans, was making his first appearance at T-Mobile Arena since the news broke last month that he owed the Cosmopolitan $500,000 for unpaid gambling debts racked up during last April’s playoffs. Every time he touched the puck, the 18,275 serenaded him with the chant “Pay your markers!”
Kane was on his best behavior and did not resort to any stunts that has made him the target of the Vegas fans’ hate. He played hockey and San Jose was better for it.
And that put a smile on the faces of the fathers of the Sharks players who were in town for the team’s annual Dad’s Trip.
The good news for the Knights Thursday? They came away with a point and they actually made up some ground in the Pacific Division as both Edmonton and Arizona, the two teams ahead of Vegas, lost. The Oilers come to town Saturday to close out the homestand.
“I feel good,” Gallant said when asked of his thoughts of his team’s play to this point. “I mean, even with the games we were losing we weren’t playing that bad. So, I feel good about our team.
“Would I like to be higher in the standings with more points? Of course. But you know what, it’s been a battle. It’s been a grind and our team’s coming and we’re playing pretty good hockey. I can’t say nothing when we lose a game like tonight. I think we battled. We could’ve won the game, should’ve won the game, but it doesn’t happen every night.”