Photos by Aris Bernales/SFBay
SAP CENTER — There was no need to bust out the “Smile Cam” at Sunday night’s Sharks game, because you weren’t going to find two fellows flashing their pearly whites more than Logan Couture and Bracken Kearns.
Couture scored his 100th career goal that also ended a scoring drought that had plagued him since December 3, and Kearns tallied his first NHL career goal just a day after being called up from the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worcester.
And those were just two reasons to grin, as San Jose was on their A-game from the drop of the puck in their 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night.
It was a big win against the Pacific-leading Ducks, who the Sharks will turn around and play again on New Years Eve, down in Anaheim. Joe Thornton explained:
“They’re kind of running away with our division right now. Tonight, we kind of grabbed them, brought them back a little bit. But it’s going to be another huge game against them on Tuesday against them. We’ll be ready, but to get this one at home is huge.”
At 1:17, Joe Pavelski grabbed the puck on a rebound and fed it to Burns from behind Anaheim’s net. No. 88 wristed it high over goalie Frederik Andersen’s shoulder to give the home team the early 1-0 lead in the opening stanza. Thornton also registered an assist on the opening goal.
After the Sharks’ special teams killed off a Pavelski interference penalty, Couture skated up the middle of the ice and backhanded the puck past Andersen.
The slow-motion shot on the video cube above center ice caught No. 39 give out a long sigh and then smile wide as his 11-game drought came to an end. Burns and Jason Demers tallied assists as San Jose took a 2-0 lead.
When asked after the game about the significance of getting his 100th career goal, Couture was still smiling:
“It’s a big number. I was stuck on 99 for awhile, which kind of sucked. (Laughs) So it is definitely special. It will be one I remember.”
9:16 into the second frame, Kearns cleaned up Andrew Desjardin’s rebound shot and tripped over his own skates as he slapped the puck past Andersen. Mike Brown also tallied an assist on Kearns’ first NHL career point, which also widened the Sharks lead 3-0.
Head coach Todd McLellan recognized the magic behind the monumental goal:
“It’s a great story, isn’t it? It’s great for him. But there’s also a lesson in it, about believing in yourself and persevering. And he’s done that … He left his mark on the game and on our team tonight, and I’m proud of him for that.”
Kearns, still a bit starry-eyed after the game, gave thanks back to the team:
“I owe it to this organization (for giving) me an opportunity. I don’t even know how many organizations would give a 32 year-old an opportunity like they have given me. You just keep working at it and setting your goals high. You know, I have dreamed of scoring a goal in the NHL since I was kid, so it was just an amazing feeling.”
Antti Niemi (30 saves) kept the pressure up on his end of the ice, but Patrick Maroon got the beat on the Sharks’ goalkeep with a snapshot in the paint to put the Ducks on the board 3-1. It was the only goal the visitors notched on the night.
The Sharks look to keep their winning streak going as they close out 2013 facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday. They return home to host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Tonight was the tenth time this season the Sharks have scored in the first two minutes of a game…The Sharks had 30 blocked shots, tying the franchise record for most blocked shots in a game (also had 30 on 3/27/13 against Anaheim)… Brent Burns had a multi-point game (1 goal, 1 assist) and now has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in his last three games…At 32 years, 231 days, Bracken Kearns became the oldest Sharks player to score his first NHL goal (Previous: Jay Leach, 30 years, 190 days). [Credit: Darin Stephens]… Joe Thornton tallied his league-leading 38th assist on Brent Burns goal…Four Sharks players have active point-streaks of 3 or more games: Joe Thornton (four games), Joe Pavelski (four games), Jason Demers (four games), and Brent Burns (three games).