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Down but not out, Couture found way to lift Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- When San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan saw center Logan Couture limp off the ice and to the dressing room early in the second period Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings, he didn't wonder if his young star would back. The only question was when.

Logan Couture
Logan Couture
Center - SJS
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 10
SOG: 20 | +/-: -3

"With Logan, it's always when," McLellan said Thursday.

Sure enough, Couture returned in time to take the final shift of the second period and went on to score the game-winning power-play goal 1:29 into overtime, lifting San Jose to a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

McLellan said Couture has turned the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year into his "coming out party," and he gave Sharks fans reason to celebrate Saturday when he overcame an injury to score the first overtime goal of his playoff career.

"Trainers did a great job, doctors did a good job," Couture said. "I wanted to come back and play, and that's what we did."

Couture will have two full days to recover before Game 4 on Tuesday at HP Pavilion (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN) when the Sharks will try to even the best-of-7 series. He and most of his teammates stayed off the ice Sunday for the team's optional skate. They're scheduled to practice Monday morning.

"It's good for everyone in this room," Couture said of the break. "It's been a long year. Playoffs have been intense. A couple extra days and we'll be ready to go on Tuesday."

Couture was injured at 4:08 of the second period while battling Kings forward Jeff Carter near the boards. Couture apparently stepped on the puck, then hit the ice and slid awkwardly into the boards. He limped off favoring his left leg and went immediately to the Sharks dressing room.

Couture returned to the bench with 1:13 left in the second and was on the ice for the final 27 seconds of the period. After returning, he logged 10:56 of ice time, more than every Sharks forward except Joe Pavelski, who had four seconds more.

"Carter pushed me a little bit, and I think I stepped on the puck," Couture said. "I haven't seen the full replay of it yet."

Couture said he's not sure if he would have returned if he had suffered the same injury during a regular-season game.

"It's playoffs. Everyone plays through injuries," Couture said. "The four years I've been here, I've seen guys play through a lot of injuries. The Stanley Cup is what you're playing for. Whatever it takes.

"Two years ago [Ryane Clowe] and [Joe Thornton] couldn't even put their own jerseys on in the playoffs. They had guys putting their jerseys on for them, their shoulders were so bad. Stuff like that. Just guys playing through a lot of things."

Before Couture was injured, the Sharks lost forward Martin Havlat to a lower-body injury. Havlat, playing for the first time since being injured in Game 1 of the Sharks' first-round sweep of the Vancouver Canucks, didn't return to the game Saturday and has been ruled out for Game 4.

The Sharks played with 10 forwards for most of the second period. When Couture emerged from the dressing room and returned to the bench, the sellout crowd of 17,562 at HP Pavilion greeted him with a rousing ovation. They knew how important Couture's return was, and so did his teammates.

Brent Burns said it reminded him of the emotional lift the Kings got in Game 2 when Anze Kopitar returned after being hit in the face with a puck early in the third period and having to get 20 stitches.

"You saw the game previously with Kopitar, and you feel the energy of the building get bigger," Burns said. "They fed off of that, and I think we fed off of it too in our building."

When Couture returned, the Sharks got their most dangerous offensive weapon and one of their biggest leaders back on the ice.

"He’s got a passion and an energy that’s contagious," McLellan said. "Sometimes older players do that to younger ones and younger to older. But he has a passion for the game that is second to none and he’s got an energy that he brings. He never quits on plays. He drives a lot of people into the game. That’s the sign of a good leader."

On the game-winner, Thornton got the puck to Patrick Marleau below the goal line, and Marleau zipped a pass to Couture in the slot. Couture lofted a shot past goaltender Jonathan Quick.

"It's a nice play by Patty and Jumbo," Couture said. "Quick over-slid a little bit and I was able to get it up past his glove.

"You're in tight on him. You know you have to get it upstairs because he takes the bottom away. I was able to get it up over his glove."

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