Logan Couture has hat trick to lead Sharks past Sabres 5-1
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Sharks have been struggling to score on the power play early this season. Splitting up star defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson to put them on different units helped do the trick.
Logan Couture had his third career hat trick and the Sharks scored three times on the power play to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 Thursday night in their first game back from a five-game road trip.
“It felt better as a participant on the power play and I’m sure it looked better from up top,” Couture said. “Both those guys are comfortable in that spot. They both wanted to be there. I think that gives us two strong units now.”
Each one got off to a fast start as Couture and Joonas Donskoi scored power-play goals 27 seconds apart in the first period following a double-minor against Kyle Okposo for high-sticking.
Joe Pavelski also scored on a power play in the third, giving the Sharks three goals with the man advantage after netting just two in the first six games.
“Every once in a while it gets hot and cold. It’s about sticking with it,” Pavelski said. “We kind of talked about just getting back to certain things that make us successful on it. We played pretty fast on it, pretty direct at times, won some faceoffs and some goals came off it. So that’s a good formula for us. It’s always been.”
Couture added an even-strength goal in the third off a feed from Evander Kane and capped the night with an empty-net goal.
Martin Jones made 24 saves for the Sharks.
Jake McCabe scored for the Sabres, who fell to 1-2 on their five-game Western swing. Carter Hutton made 34 saves.
The Sabres failed to convert on five chances with the man advantage and gave up three power-play goals.
“When special teams are struggling as much as it is and power plays are struggling, you’ve got to go back to work and go back to simplicity,” McCabe said. “Look at their power play — it was nothing special, they’re getting pucks to the net and bodies to the net and it creates chaos and it’s tough to defend.”
The Sharks have had a rough go on the power play early this season as they work on incorporating Karlsson into the unit. San Jose converted just two of its first 21 chances with the man advantage before capitalizing early against the Sabres when Okposo was called for high-sticking Rourke Chartier.
Late in the first power play, Karlsson’s shot from just inside the boards deflected off Donskoi and into the net to give San Jose the lead and another chance with the man advantage.
The Sharks didn’t take long to convert that one as Couture won an offensive zone draw and got the puck back from Burns on top of the circle and beat Hutton for his second goal of the season.
That was part of seven power-play chances in a penalty-filled first period that featured only 8:35 of even-strength play. The Sabres were unable to convert their three chances, generating just two shots on goal and one off a post by Casey Mittelstadt.
“You put an emphasis on 5-on-5 but it takes more than that to win a hockey game. You’ve got to score on the power plays and kill penalties and we didn’t do that,” Okposo said. “So we have to put together the whole package.”
Buffalo’s best chance came on a flurry late in the period, but Jones made a key save and Couture blocked a shot by Marco Scandella when Jones was out of position.
The Sabres got on the board early in the second when McCabe beat Jones with a shot from the circle that went through a screen.
NOTES: Couture also had hat tricks against Vancouver in 2016 and the Islanders in 2017. ... Kane had two assists in his first game against the Sabres since being traded to the Sharks last February. ... San Jose last scored three power-play goals in a game on Dec. 21, 2017, vs. Vancouver. ... Sharks C Joe Thornton missed his fifth straight game with swelling in his surgically repaired right knee.
Sabres: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Sharks: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday.