SAN JOSE, Calif. – Sharks coach Todd McLellan knew exactly which player he wanted to send out first in the shootout Tuesday night.
The guy with no points this season.
Shootout specialist Michal Handzus came through again, scoring the lone goal to give unbeaten San Jose a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
“He’s known for scoring and I played the odds,” McLellan said. “He’s our best shooter.”
Strange but true for a team with some of the top scorers in the NHL.
San Jose has four players ranked among the top eight in points—including the first two on the list—and the Sharks were the only team in the league with three 30-goal scorers last season.
None of those players was Handzus, however. He had seven goals last season and is yet to record a point in six games this year. But he is 17 for 33 on career shootout attempts and 15 of 27 in two seasons with San Jose, giving him the best percentage on the team.
Handzus never would have had a chance in this one, though, if not for teammate Logan Couture.
In a game mostly dominated by the Ducks, Couture scored with less than 3 minutes left in the third period to tie it 2-all. He ripped a shot that appeared to deflect off the skates of Bryan Allen and trickled past Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, who otherwise had an outstanding game.
“We didn’t play well in their end,” Couture said. “It was an ugly win and we’ll take it.”
The Sharks improved to 6-0-0, matching the Chicago Blackhawks for the best record in the NHL.
Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey scored within a minute of each other midway through the second period to put the Ducks ahead. Hiller stopped 16 shots.
“I think we played well,” Beleskey said. “We played a good road game. It was just a game where a puck hits the ref and they go down and score and in the shootout we hit a post. If we play that way every night we’re going to be a pretty successful team.”
Joe Pavelski scored the first goal for the Sharks, limited to two power-play opportunities. Antti Niemi had 28 saves and San Jose hung on when Teemu Selanne hit the post on Anaheim’s final shootout try.
Anaheim’s constant pressure and ability to stay out of the penalty box made things tough on the Sharks.
“It might not happen on any other night but tonight I thought we outplayed them,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I can’t say anything negative. We outworked them. It’s disappointing because we played so hard.”
Pavelski scored for the third time in two games when he fired one past Hiller midway through the first period. Joe Thornton gave Pavelski a nice pass just to the right of the net.
Beleskey took a shot from the side that bounced off Niemi’s pads and into the net to tie it. Less than a minute later, Beauchemin beat Niemi with a shot over his left shoulder.
“It seemed like a battle from the beginning,” Thornton said. “For whatever reason we didn’t play well at the start of the game, but we stuck with it and Logan gave us a chance to win.”
NOTES: Sharks D Dan Boyle sat out with the flu. … Ducks forward Emerson Etem, a Long Beach product, made his NHL debut in the first period. … Thornton has 57 points (16 goals, 41 assists) in 58 games against the Ducks. … The Ducks are 0 for 12 on the power play since converting all three chances in their first game. … On the first goal of the game, Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, Thornton and Pavelski all extended their point streak to six games. … The Sharks lost their previous three games at home against the Ducks. … The Ducks outshot the Sharks 13-4 in the first period. … Sharks C Scott Gomez got his first point for San Jose with an assist on Couture’s goal. … Sharks D Nick Petrecki made his NHL debut.