HIGHLIGHTS: Couture celebrates by 'Kaepernicking,' Sharks remain perfect
"It’s a Bay Area team that’s in the Super Bowl, so, just showed some support for those guys." -- Logan Couture on his 'Kaepernicking' celebration (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – Logan Couture couldn’t help himself when he deposited his fifth goal on a laser of a wrist shot past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The third-year All-Star skated to the corner boards, kissed his bicep Colin Kaepernick-style, and waited for a swarm of teammates as the Sharks took a 1-0 lead.
Although they surrendered a 2-0 lead in regulation, Michal Handzus and Dan Boyle scored in a shootout, as San Jose kicked the extra point to improve to a perfect 7-0-0. The Sharks are the only remaining undefeated team in the league, winning 3-2.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 3, Oilers 2 (SO)]
As for Couture, he started smiling even before the question about his celebration move honoring the 49ers' dynamic quarterback was asked.
“It’s a Bay Area team that’s in the Super Bowl, so, just showed some support for those guys,” he said. “Obviously, the team around here -- we’re rooting for them.”
While Couture’s goal and subsequent celebration provided the water-cooler material, it was Handzus who played a key role in the shootout again. The 35-year-old went first and beat Dubnyk high to give the Sharks the early advantage, and after Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed the mark on their tries, Boyle ended it with a high wrist shot of his own.
Handzus has yet to register a single point in game play, but it was his second winning shootout goal in as many games, after he was the only one to score against Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller on Tuesday in a 3-2 Sharks win.
“Hiller was another tough goalie, so I knew it was going to be short side, up,” Handzus said. “[Dubnyk] is big, too, but he was deep in the net. I knew I couldn’t shoot it right away. I tried to fake it first and make him go down, and then tried to go up. It worked.”
Handzus is 7-for-12 in shootouts with the Sharks, and a career 18-for-34.
Joe Thornton said: “Ever since he’s been here, he’s been money on shootout goals. Last game he buried one, and tonight. I think it’s an easy choice for coach to put him out there as the number one shooter.”
The Sharks were much more pleased with their effort in this game than in Tuesday’s match with Anaheim, in which they failed to generate much offensively. In a fast-paced game that featured plenty of up-and-down action and scoring chances, the Sharks and Oilers traded four goals before overtime. Along with Couture, Joe Pavelski scored in the second period, while Gagner and Hall tallied for the Oilers. Hall's goal on a two-on-one with Eberle tied it in the first minute of the third.
“It was a cleaner game," Todd MeLellan said. "When you look at the three goals that were scored, early, they were all turnovers – two by them, one by us. I think our games early, things kind of came to us – not easily, but everything was smooth. Now, we’re having to battle through games, which I think is good for us.”
The Sharks’ power play continued its cooling-off period. After beginning the season with at least two power play goals in each of the first five games, San Jose is 0-for-7 in its last two games, including no goals in five chances on Thursday.
In overtime with Gagner in the box, the Sharks did have their chances, though. Dubnyk snuffed out Patrick Marleau and Boyle in front of the net, and the Edmonton goalie redeemed himself after allowing all six goals in the first meeting.
“The power play was early not as good, overtime it was very good,” McLellan said. “Dubnyk made a number of really good saves. We had some good looks. It’s still there, it’s still dangerous. The second unit is still a work in progress with new bodies there. We’ve got a couple d-men that aren’t playing right now that we think can contribute in that area, as well.”
Dubnyk, who finished with 36 saves, make a number of strong stops early in the game. A little more than a minute in he denied Scott Gomez streaking towards the crease, Marty Havlat was snubbed on a shorthanded breakaway five minutes into the first, and Pavelski cut through the slot eight minutes in but could not find daylight.
On the other end, Antti Niemi recorded his sixth win in as many attempts, quietly turning aside 26 shots, including a pair of chances by Jordan Eberle and Hall early in overtime. Niemi is 5-0-1 in his career against the Oilers.
San Jose’s penalty kill looked very strong once again, as it has for most of the homestand that ends with a sixth and final game against Nashville on Saturday. The Sharks have killed off 16 consecutive opponent power plays.
“The power play was a little off but the PK looked real good,” said Thornton.
It all adds up to the Sharks looking down on the rest of the league, and improving on what was already their longest winning streak to start a season.
“It’s 14 points. It’s nothing more to say, than it’s 14 points,” said McLellan. “We’ll have our share of times where we’re frustrated and maybe not winning, but right now we’ve got to keep putting them in the bank as much as we possibly can.”