Couture makes long-awaited return in Sharks' win over Ducks
Fabian Zetterlund had a goal and an assist, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kyle Burroughs and Jan Rutta also scored and Tomás Hertl added an empty-netter for the Sharks, who entered the game having lost 15 of 16 games.
Trailing 4-2, Anaheim's Mason McTavish cut the deficit to 4-3 with a wrist shot on the power play that beat Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood with under five minutes to play in the third period, but San Jose held off a final push. Blackwood made 31 saves.
The game was scoreless until the teams combined for five goals in the last five minutes of the second period. Couture fed Vlasic on the rush with a backhand pass to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 15:04.
What made the game extra special for Couture was that his newborn son was able to watch him for the first time.
“Saw him during warmups,” Couture said. "So there are a lot of things going through my head there. It almost felt surreal when I stepped down on the ice.”
Sharks coach David Quinn said he was happy for Couture, who has been in it for the “long haul.”
“I know he’s been dying to get back for a long time, and having him in the lineup certainly puts us in a better position to win hockey games," Quinn said.
Anaheim answered 15 seconds after Vlasic's tally, with Jackson LaCombe scoring his first NHL goal in his 43rd career game after Blackwood was pressured behind the net and turned the puck over.
“It’s exciting, obviously waited a long time in those games,” LaCombe said. “It was a funky play too, so it was just funny to get one like that."
Burroughs scored to put San Jose back ahead 2-1, finishing a pass from Hertl after Hertl stole the puck in the offensive zone. Zetterlund, two minutes later, roofed a wrist shot on the rush over John Gibson's shoulder. Adam Henrique scored in the final seconds to make it 3-2 after two. Gibson finished with 14 saves.
Rutta scored on a wrist shot at 12:15 of the third to give the Sharks an insurance goal.
Anaheim — wrapping up a six-game road trip — has lost nine of 11.
Ducks coach Greg Cronin said his team passed on too many quality chances, especially in the first period. Anaheim outshot San Jose 34-19.
“It doesn’t matter how many shots you have, it’s the quality of the shots,” Cronin said. “We actually had quality shots we didn’t take, and give them credit. They did an unbelievable job blocking shots, and they stayed with it."
Couture centered a line with William Eklund and Alexander Barabanov. The captain revealed before Saturday’s game that he was dealing with osteitis pubis, a hip/groin injury. Couture played in all 82 games last season and led Sharks’ forwards with 67 points.
Couture said there were days when he couldn’t get out of bed and as recently as two months ago, he was uncertain if he’d ever play in the NHL again. On his first shift, he delivered a hit into the boards on Ilya Lyubushkin. In the second period, he drew a boarding penalty in the offensive zone.
“It felt great to win," Couture said.
The Ducks were without forward Alex Killorn, who will miss four to six weeks after the team announced he will undergo arthroscopic left knee surgery next week. The free agent acquisition joins a long list of key Anaheim players dealing with injuries, including Trevor Zegras (ankle), and Pavel Mintyukov (shoulder).
Ducks: Host the Rangers on Sunday night.
Sharks: Visit the Kings on Monday night.
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