PHILADELPHIA – The San Jose Sharks made a simple change to rally for a comeback victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. They started shooting the puck.
Joe Pavelski had a hat trick to move into a tie for second in the NHL in goals and the Sharks beat Philadelphia 7-3 Thursday night in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break.
Raffi Torres and Logan Couture each scored twice in their return to San Jose’s lineup following injuries.
The Sharks trailed 2-1 after getting outshot 10-4 in the first period. San Jose made a pointed effort to shoot the puck in the second period and it paid off in a big way, resulting in five second-period goals on 16 shots.
“We started to finally shoot the puck,” Couture said. “The first period we weren’t shooting. We were playing in their end, but we weren’t shooting. That’s more the way we play, the way we need to play. A lot of our goals were off rebounds, and that’s the way you score in this league.”
Pavelski, one of the Sharks’ four Olympians, scored all three of his goals in the dominating second period. Torres, who was making his 2013-14 debut after injuring his knee in the preseason, capped the second-period spree with his second goal of the game with 2.2 seconds left. Couture, who missed the previous 16 games due to hand surgery, netted his 15th goal of the season in the period.
“We didn’t have a lot of purpose in our game in the first period, especially in their zone,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Kind of skating around waiting for something to happen. We got our forecheck going in the second (and) a lot more pucks to the goaltender, which created second and third chances. We had to start thinking about throwing the puck from bad angles and creating second (chances) that way.”
Andrej Meszaros had a highlight-reel tally and Matt Read and Brayden Schenn also scored for the Flyers, who had won four straight before the Olympic break.
Flyers coach Craig Berube wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort, particularly the play in front of their own goal.
“Not competing around our net, that’s basically what it boils down to,” Berube said. “Not getting sticks, not boxing people out, not being hard on people. We didn’t compete hard enough to win the hockey game. Nobody.
“We’re all embarrassed tonight.”
The Flyers netted a pair of goals within a 22-second span midway through the first period to take a 2-1 lead. Meszaros, one of five Flyers who participated in the Olympics, opened the Philadelphia scoring with 9:24 remaining in the opening period. Alex Stalock, San Jose’s backup goalie who started in place of Olympian Antti Niemi, saved Meszaros’ initial shot from the point, but Steve Downie pushed the rebound to Meszaros, who shot the puck between his own legs and past Stalock from close range.
Schenn put Philadelphia ahead 2-1 when he backhanded the puck from behind the net off the skate of Jason Demers and past Stalock with 9:02 remaining in the first period.
But it was all San Jose in the second period.
Pavelski scored from close range on the power play 4:23 into the period and then gave San Jose the lead for good with 9:48 remaining in the period when he deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot from the point past Steve Mason that made it 3-2. Mason was lifted 35 seconds later when Couture tallied on a rebound after the Flyers goalie dropped a shot that he initially gloved. Mason gave up four goals on his first 13 shots.
His replacement, Ray Emery, didn’t fare much better, as Pavelski scored on a turnaround from in front of the crease with 5:50 left in the period for his 32nd goal of the season, tying him with Toronto’s Phil Kessel for second-most in the league. Torres finished the second-period scoring by just beating the intermission buzzer with a close-range goal.
“We had some good luck throughout the team,” Pavelski said. “They were just going in tonight. Life is good. Hopefully they keep coming.”
The sellout crowd loudly booed the Flyers as they exited the ice following the period.
“We lost a lot of battles the last two-thirds of the game,” Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell said. “Simple penalties, turnovers that led to odd-man rushes and we were soft in front of our net. That’s what you get when you don’t play tough, you don’t play strong and you don’t play good defence. It could’ve been 10-3.”
It didn’t get any better in the third period for Philadelphia as Couture netted a short-handed goal 4:50 in on a backhander in front of Emery. In a rare move, Emery was lifted and Mason was re-inserted into the game with 9:11 left in the third period. Emery requested to be removed from the game due to an undisclosed injury that neither he nor Berube would identify.
Besides Meszaros, Flyers Michael Raffi, Jakub Voracek, Kimmo Timonen and Mark Streit also participated in the Olympics. Timonen, who helped Finland to the bronze medal, was a healthy scratch to allow him to rest.
In addition to Niemi and Pavelski, San Jose’s Patrick Marleau and Vlasic competed in Sochi. Niemi, who entered second in the NHL in wins (29), didn’t see any action Thursday.
Demers, Andrew Desjardins and Marleau each had a pair of assists for the Sharks.
NOTES: Before the Olympics, Niemi was 7-3 with a 2.12 GAA in his previous 10 starts. However, one of those losses was a 5-2 home defeat to the Flyers on Feb. 3, a game in which he gave up four goals before being pulled. … San Jose won its sixth straight game in Philadelphia. The Flyers’ last home win over the Sharks came on Dec. 21, 2000. … San Jose came within two of its season-high for goals, set in a 9-2 win over the Rangers on Oct. 8. … The seven goals allowed matched a season-worst for Philadelphia, which lost 7-0 to Washington on Nov. 1 and 7-2 at Chicago on Dec. 11.