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Hertl's four goals power Sharks past Rangers

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- From the day San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl arrived at training camp last month, he appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. It's just that no one knew exactly how fast.

In just his third NHL game Tuesday night, Hertl scored a franchise record-tying four goals, leading the San Jose Sharks to a 9-2 rout of the New York Rangers.

Hertl became the youngest NHL player to score four goals in a game since March 20, 1988, when Jimmy Carson accomplished the feat with the Los Angeles Kings. Carson was 19 years, 254 days old when he scored four goals against Calgary. Hertl, who turns 20 on Nov. 12, scored four goals at the age of 19 years and 330 days.

Hertl tied Owen Nolan's franchise record set on Dec. 19, 1995, in a 7-4 road win against the Anaheim Ducks. Hertl, who scored twice in San Jose's 4-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday, scored twice during a four-goal second period and twice more in the third period, giving him a team-high six goals for the season.

Hertl became the first player in Sharks history to score at least six goals in his first three games.

"It's crazy," said Hertl, who was the 17th player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft out of the Czech Republic. "This is a dream. Four goals. I never [scored four] in the Czech League, I never had three. In the NHL, it's crazy."

When Hertl scored his third goal, beating Martin Biron at 9:02 of the third on a power play, hats started flying out of the stands and onto the ice. Cameras cut to shots of his mother in the arena, in tears. But Hertl wasn't satisfied with a hat trick; at 12:05, he scored on a breakaway from close range, dropping the puck back between his legs and beating Martin Biron on the forehand for a highlight-reel goal.

"That's something I don't have in my bag," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "That was awfully pretty, eh?"

So was Hertl's entire game.

"That was special," Thornton said. "You don't see that too often. That was very, very special. ... He likes to score goals, and you can see that by his celebrations. He loves to put pucks in the back of the net, and as his teammates it's fun to watch him put pucks in the back of the net. It's been fun to watch in the first three games."

Fellow rookie Matt Nieto scored his first career NHL goal and had his first two NHL assists.

The Rangers, coming off a 3-1 road win against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, took an early 1-0 lead on Brad Richards' power-play goal, but the Sharks scored the next six goals. After building a 2-1 lead in the first on goals by defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle, the Sharks blew the game open by scoring four times in the second period. Nieto, Hertl and Logan Couture scored in the span of 1:23 as the Sharks built a 5-1 lead with 10:21 left in the period.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, gave up San Jose's first four goals before being replaced by Biron at 9:19 of the second after Hertl's first goal, a blast from close range after a cross-ice pass from Andrew Desjardins.

"They did exactly what they wanted to do out there," Lundqvist said of the Sharks. "The difference between the teams -- the way we played, the way they played -- was too great. Very disappointing coming from last night and the way we played. We had higher expectations, so this was definitely not good enough."

Couture knocked a rebound off the backboards out of the air and past Biron at 9:39 of the second to make it 5-1, and Hertl took a feed from Thornton and beat Biron on a breakaway at 12:32, putting the Sharks ahead 6-1.

Center Joe Pavelski had three assists, and goaltender Antti Niemi made 18 saves as the Sharks improved to 3-0-0, with all three wins coming at SAP Center.

The Rangers (1-2-0) played the second of back-to-back games and their third straight road game. They're on a nine-game road trip -- the longest to start a season in franchise history and tied for the longest overall -- while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.

"San Jose was on top of their game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They were on top of their execution. The score could have been three or four to one after the first period. So tough to understand at this point how we can play so well last night and play like this tonight. So we have 48 hours before our next game [Thursday night in Anaheim] and we'll come up with some answers."

The Sharks said they wanted to jump on what they thought might be a tired team early, and after a hiccup, that's what they did.

Hertl, with his mother and girlfriend from the Czech Republic in the stands, provided more than enough energy for the Sharks.

"He's a passionate young man and I'm not even sure if he realizes where he is," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He's innocent out there. He scores the fourth goal and when it's 8-2 or 9-2 or whatever it was, it's probably not a real good celebrating time. But he's so innocent that he's excited about doing it and sometimes that passion is a good thing to have in our game."

Pavelski said Hertl's flamboyant fourth goal rubbed some Rangers the wrong way, but he had no problem with it. Neither did McLellan.

"Well, he scored, why not?" McLellan said. "Our game needs a little bit of that. And again, it's that innocence that he has. He doesn't completely understand where he is and he's playing free. We've used those terms before. And he has a couple of really good linemates helping him."

Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart made his debut after missing every exhibition game and the first two regular-season games with a lower-body injury he suffered before training camp opened. He wound up in the penalty box just 2:32 into the game for elbowing Rangers forward Rick Nash. Nash saw 5:53 of ice time in the first period and played eight shifts after the hit, but the Rangers announced early in the second that he was out for the remainder of the game with an undisclosed injury.

Nash said he left the game as a precaution.

"It just didn't feel right," Nash said. "I could feel it. Any time you get a head shot you're concerned. It's not a good feeling."

Thirty-one seconds after Stuart's penalty, San Jose was penalized for having too many men on the ice, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage, and they quickly capitalized. With Ryan Callahan providing a screen, Richards fired a shot from the right circle that beat Niemi to the far side for his third goal in two nights, putting the Rangers ahead 1-0 at 3:27.

The Sharks answered with Vlasic's shorthanded goal from the high slot at 4:23. Pavelski zipped him a pass from near the goal line, and Vlasic sent a shot through traffic and past Lundqvist, just inside the left post, for his first goal of the season.

Boyle put the Sharks ahead 2-1 at 7:56. After Pavelski won a faceoff in the left circle, Nieto sent the puck cross-ice and off the right boards to Boyle, who spun and ripped a long slap shot that bounced off Rangers defenseman Marc Staal's leg and past Lundqvist. Nieto got his first career assist and point, while Pavelski got his second assist of the period.

The Sharks took complete control in the second period, outshooting the Rangers 23-8. Nieto, 20, took a pass from Tommy Wingels in the low slot on a rush and scored on a wrist shot at 8:16. Sixty-three seconds later, Hertl scored from close range, and Couture scored 20 seconds later.

Hertl scored his team-high fourth goal of the season at 12:32.

Derek Dorsett cut San Jose's lead to 6-2 at 8:22 of the third, but Hertl scored back-to-back goals, and Justin Braun added a late power-play goal.

"We got embarrassed tonight," said Callahan, the Rangers' captain. "We have to realize that and respond. The effort has to be there and needs to be better."

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