SAN JOSE, Calif. – All it took to get slumping Ryane Clowe going again for the San Jose Sharks was being reunited with Logan Couture.
Clowe scored the tying goal with 1:26 left in regulation and Joe Pavelski won it with a goal in the sixth round of the shootout as the Sharks beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Thursday night.
“Tonight whatever the outcome was, I was happy with the effort of our line,” Clowe said. “We were put back together to create some offence and get back on track. I thought that we did a good job tonight.”
Clowe and Couture had great success together for San Jose a year ago but had struggled a bit after being split up recently. Coach Todd McLellan put them back together on the second line with Marty Havlat late in a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles on Monday and the move paid immediate dividends in this game.
Clowe set up Couture for a second-period goal and then that line delivered the equalizer late in regulation when Couture drove the net on Havlat’s shot from the wing and Clowe knocked the rebound past Carey Price for his first goal since Nov. 3.
“They really read well off each other and they support each other well,” McLellan said. “You could see the other night when we put them together in L.A., Clowe’s play picked up right away. He was excited about it again, which is a really good thing for him and a really good thing for (Couture).”
McLellan then put those three linemates out in order for the shootout, with Havlat scoring in the second round. Brian Gionta kept it going in the third round when he stickhandled past Antti Niemi.
Michal Handzus and David Desharnais traded goals in the fourth round before both teams missed in the fifth. Pavelski then beat Price with a forehand wrister before Niemi got his pad out just in time to stop P.K. Subban’s backhand attempt.
“We can’t lose these types of games,” Price said. “It seems like we’ve done it five or six times where we give up a lead in the last five minutes. We have to bear down. It’s tough knowing you had the game in the bag.”
Jamie McGinn also scored and Niemi made 29 saves for the Sharks, who have won six straight at home against Montreal, last losing 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 23, 1999.
Desharnais had a goal and two assists, and Erik Cole and Michael Cammalleri each had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who have lost four in a row.
The Canadiens had taken the lead when Desharnais’ wraparound attempt trickled through the crease and Cole beat Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the loose puck and knocked it past Niemi to make it 3-2 with 11:14 to go. That lead was erased on Clowe’s rebound goal.
“You work hard, you get the lead, you’re doing things right and then, unfortunately, you get a bad bounce at the end,” Gionta said. “It was a tough bounce for us and a lucky rebound for them.”
Montreal scored first in each period and San Jose answered before finally winning it in the shootout.
The Canadiens got it started in the first period when Niemi was out of position after he made a save during a scramble in front of the net. Cammalleri then redirected a point shot from Desharnais into the empty net.
Just 41 seconds later, McGinn knocked the rebound of Handzus’ wraparound attempt past Price for his third goal.
The Canadiens scored first again in the second period after a turnover in the offensive zone by Pavelski. Cole then banked a blind, backhand pass off the boards that reached Desharnais in stride. He raced up ice and fired a wrist shot past Niemi before Dan Boyle could get over to slow him down.
This time, the Sharks took 1:37 to tie the game when Couture raced in from the blue line to take a pass from Clowe and beat Price with a wrist shot for his eighth goal.
Havlat was not involved in the scoring on that goal but was on the ice for all three Sharks scores as he posted a season-best plus-3 rating and got just his second point since Nov. 5.
“Marty’s best game as a Shark,” McLellan said. “I don’t even think it’s close. That’s the Marty that we think we have and that we’ll need moving forward.”
NOTES: Canadiens F Max Pacioretty, whose parents grew up in the Bay Area, served the second game of his three-game suspension for an illegal head hit on Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, disappointing about 35 family members who bought tickets. … Handzus returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game with an illness. … Montreal D Andrei Markov, who has been out for more than a year since tearing ligaments in his right knee on Nov. 13, 2010, is close to returning.