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Couture helps Sharks top Oilers 2-1

by John Kreiser /

Logan Couture continues to make the case that he's the NHL's top rookie

Couture scored his NHL-high 10th goal of the month to break a scoreless tie in the second period as the San Jose Sharks won their third in a row by holding off the Edmonton Sharks 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Couture played 25 games last season, the maximum to be considered a rookie in 2010-11, and had just 5 goals and 9 points. Tuesday's goal was his 18th of the season, tying him for fourth in the NH. His 25 points are tops among rookies.

But Couture is excelling at both ends of the ice. Coach Todd McLellan used him as the lone forward during a 3-on-5 penalty kill early in the second period -- and not only did he help keep the Oilers off the board, he drew a penalty on the Oilers' Taylor Hall.

"I don't hesitate one bit but to put Logan out whether it's a 5-on-3 penalty kill, as it was, or a power-play situation in the last minute," McLellan said. "He's earned that right with the staff, and he's earned that right with his teammates -- and I can tell you everybody else feels the same way.

"Logan provided that spark in the second, got us going. After that everybody else fell in line."

Couture also impressed Hall, a potential rival for the rookie of the year award.

"He's a great player and he's a go-to guy for a team like the Sharks," the No. 1 pick in last June's Entry Draft said. "That says a lot. He has the puck a lot and he's strong down low."

Couture set up his goal with a superb defensive play -- taking the puck away from Edmonton's Linus Omark in the neutral zone and dishing it to Ryane Clowe for a quick 2-on-1 break. Clowe carried down the right wing and finally was able to slide the puck past Kurtis Foster to an onrushing Couture, who fought his way past Ladislav Smid and rammed the pass behind Nikolai Khabibulin at 13:15 of the middle period for a 1-0 lead.

"I don't get to see the others play every other night but for me, hands down he's the best rookie this year," Boyle said. "He's been playing so well and he's a two-way player. He does it on both ends. You can say he's been our best player this year."

Couture gave the credit to Clowe.

"You can't ask for a better pass," he said. "I don't know how he did it. It was a full reach on his backhand -- he reached around their d-man. Tape to tape. Not too many players can make passes like that. All the credit goes to him on that goal; I just went to the net with my stick on the ice."

Boyle gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead at 16:43 with a power-play goal on a wrist shot from center point that sailed through traffic and past a screened Khabibulin. It was Boyle's fourth goal of the season and first in 18 games.

Ryan Whitney, who was in the penalty box for Boyle's goal, gave the Oilers some hope when his screened slapper from the right point beat Antero Niittymaki with 1:59 to play, just seconds after the Oilers pulled Khabibulin for an extra attacker -- Whitney's first goal of the season, to go along with 25 assists. But that was the only one of the Oilers' 27 shots to beat Niittymaki, who improved to 12-3-3.

"I wasn't happy with the way we played in the first period," Boyle said. "In the second and third periods, we were pretty good. We got the puck in their zone and created some chances."

Oilers coach Tom Renney was extremely upset by the way his team played during the 5-on-3 power play.

"We had four turnovers on our 5-on-3, and that tells you that we're trying to do something that's not there," he said. "In a 5-on-3, you set up for the payoff kill and that's the shot -- and we didn't do that with any kind of authority at all. That sort of led to our demise, if you will, and subsequent to that we got into a bit of a track meet in the second period. (By) not managing the puck properly they were able to get the 2-0 lead."

Material from team media was used in this report

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