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Sharks snap slump, defeat Habs 4-3

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks spent the whole night chasing the Montreal Canadiens before finally catching and beating them.

Joe Pavelski's goal in the sixth round of the shootout gave the Sharks a 4-3 victory, snapping San Jose's two-game losing streak -- and its offensive slump. Pavelski beat goaltender Carey Price low to the glove side to start the sixth round before Antti Niemi made a pad save of PK Subban's shot for the win.

San Jose had scored just three goals in its last three games, including two losses. Coach Todd McLellan's decision to reunite slumping forwards Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Martin Havlat paid off -- Couture and Clowe both scored, with Clowe forcing OT by beating Price with 1:26 left in regulation.

Jamie McGinn had the Sharks' other goal, and Niemi stopped 29 of 32 shots as San Jose beat the Canadiens for the sixth straight time at HP Pavilion. Montreal hasn't won in San Jose since Nov. 23, 1999.

Eric Cole, David Desharnais and Michael Cammalleri scored for Montreal, which has dropped three in a row. Desharnais also had a pair of assists, and Price stopped 38 shots for the Canadiens, who took their third lead of the night when Cole beat Niemi with 11:14 left in regulation.

"We were trying to lose it in the third there when we gave up the goal, but I'm happy that they stuck with it," McLellan said. "There was a group of them that I thought was really determined. I thought (Couture's) line led the way, with Clowie and Marty, perhaps their best games in a long time. That was nice to see. They did a lot of scoring for us tonight. We're happy about that."

In hopes of generating some offense,, McLellan juggled his top two lines, returning to the trios that opened the season. Couture went from top-line wing to second-line center, reuniting with Clowe and Havlat. Patrick Marleau switched from second-line center to top-line wing, rejoining center Joe Thornton and Pavelski.

Couture and Clowe thrived together last season, creating great chemistry, but they struggled while apart this season. Entering the game, Clowe had gone 10 straight games without a goal. Couture had gone four games without a goal and had just one in his past eight games.

Clowe scored his first goal since Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh, and Couture had his first multiple-point game since Nov. 5 against Nashville.

"Tonight, whatever the outcome was, I was happy with at least the effort by our line," Clowe said. "We were put back together to create some offense and get back on track, and I thought we did a good job tonight."

After battling to a 2-2 tie through two periods, Montreal grabbed a 3-2 lead on Cole's eighth goal of the season. Desharnais banked a wraparound shot off Niemi's pads, and the carom went to Cole, who beat Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the puck and slammed it through Niemi's legs from close range.

"It shouldn't have come down to a shootout," Subban said. "It would have been nice to score, but it's a 50-50 chance. We can't put ourselves in that position. It's happened too many times this year where we have the game, and we cough it up at the last minute and a half left in the game. We're at Game 26 now. We have to figure it out."

With time running out, Havlat's shot from the right circle bounced off Price and then Couture, then went to Clowe, who flipped the puck high into the net.

"It was kind of rolling so it worked out in my favor," Clowe said. "I didn't get great wood on it, but I got it up. It was one of those ones where your eyes open wide and you're saying somehow reach the back of the net and it did."

Couture said it "felt like" he had instant chemistry with his old linemates.

"There's nights that you feel good, and it feels like the puck is following you around and you're getting on the forecheck a little quicker and you're causing turnovers on the other team's D. Tonight was one of those nights," Couture said. "The three of us were skating of were skating well, we felt good. Built off a couple good shifts and went from there."

The Sharks and Canadiens each had just one power play in the first period – neither team scored -- and none in the second and third.

"We only had the one power play, but I think the power play gave us energy tonight," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "We had some chances. We moved the puck around. We had good puck control, three or four shots, some good opportunities, so it gave us some life."

The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead at 13:21 in the first when Cammalleri, battling Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle in front of the net, redirected a blast from Desharnais past Niemi for his sixth goal of the season. Less than a minute later, the Sharks answered with McGinn's third goal of the season as he slapped the rebound of Michal Handzus' wraparound past Price.

The Sharks and Canadiens traded goals in the second period as well. Desharnais scored on a breakaway at 4:41, taking a pass from Cole and beating Niemi on the far side.

"I thought we deserved a better fate, but I thought we competed hard," Martin said. "They're a big team, and I thought we competed with them. We had a big night out of the Desharnais line – they got all of our three goals. I thought it was a good performance overall."

The lead lasted just 1:37, when Clowe controlled the puck along the right boards and zipped a perfect pass to Couture, who was streaking down through the right circle. Couture cut inside and blasted a shot past Price.

It was just like old times for Clowe and Couture.

"We've been apart for a month, but it was us playing together all last year," Clowe said. "We're fine together. As you can tell, sometimes you need to take a break and get back together. You kind of regroup and get a feel for each other again. I give a lot of credit to Marty. He played well on the wing, too."

McLellan, in fact, said Havlat played his best game as a Shark.

"I don't think it's close," McLellan said. "If he continues to play that way, using his speed, using his offensive ability – he was on pucks, he was around it all the time, he had some dangerous shots. That's the Marty that we think we have and that we'll need moving forward. Easily his best game."

McLellan, of course, liked what he saw from Clowe and Couture – to a point.

"They really read well off each other and they support each other well. You could see the other night when we put them together (in the third period) in L.A., Clowie's play picked up right away," McLellan said. "You could see he was excited about it again, which is a really good thing for him, a really good thing for (Couture), yet we can't have those security linemates or security blankets, if you will. We have to have the ability to play with anybody. We'll get Clowie's game back, and we'll try it again another way."

The Canadiens were without left wing Max Pacioretty, their top goal scorer with 10, for the second straight game. He's serving a three-game suspension for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang on Saturday.
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