ST. LOUIS – Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks are looking for a winning streak to gain some traction in the highly competitive Western Conference.
Couture is doing his part. He scored twice to add to his team-leading 17 goals as the Sharks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Saturday night.
“For us to string two wins together in a row is important,” said Couture, who has scored 14 goals on the road. “We all know we should have had that game in Nashville (Wednesday) and it could have been three in a row. Hopefully, we can build on this going back home.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a goal and an assist, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski each added two assists, and Devin Setoguchi scored his third goal in two games for the Sharks, who finished a stretch of 10 road games out of 13.
Antero Niittymaki (11-3-3) made 21 saves.
“They play a physical game and I thought we stood our ground early,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We really had a lot of jump in the first period and that established our game. When they did have some pressure, the goaltender made some good saves. Specialty teams were good, so overall it was a pretty good night for us.”
The Blues have outworked a majority of opponents this season. That was not the case Saturday, coach Davis Payne said.
“We didn’t pass that test,” Payne said. “It started in the first period for sure, outworked to the puck, outworked at the puck. It was a pretty flat start for our hockey club.
“These are areas that we take a lot of pride in. We didn’t meet our standard. We’ll address that. We’ll address it here tonight. We’ll address it again (Sunday) and make sure on Monday when Vancouver shows up, we’re back where we need to be.”
Couture scored off a pair of deflections, the first with 9:30 left in the first to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. Couture, parked in the slot, redirected Boyle’s shot from the left point past Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 30 shots in the loss.
“Clowe did a good job of trailing, and I gave it back to Boyle and went to the net,” Couture said. “It popped out and I got my stick on it.”
Couture, who is tied with Rick Nash for fifth in the NHL in goals, had a puck carom off his body from the front of the net off another shot by Boyle that gave San Jose a 3-0 lead 8:21 into the second period.
“Patty (Marleau) made great pass to Boyle coming down and I think it hit Halak in the blocker and it went off my chest or my pants and went in,” Couture said.
Vlasic’s second of the season with 1:42 left in the first period gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead. He scored with a shot from the left boards that seemed to handcuff Halak.
The first period featured a combined 10 shots and three fights.
“We’re a physical team, they’re a physical team,” Couture said. “You know we all expected it to be a man’s game before the game started so it wasn’t a surprise to us at all.”
David Backes cut the Sharks lead to two at 3-1 when he converted on a penalty shot 10:44 into the second, beating Niittymaki through the pads even though the Sharks goalie got a piece of the puck.
The Blues, who were held to their second-lowest shot total (22) of the season, were looking to gain some energy off Backes’ goal.
“I don’t know if I’m the guy to choose to take a penalty shot, but somehow, I willed it to the back of the net,” Backes said. “It was a two-goal deficit at that time and we got right back to playing our hockey after that and had a little bit of momentum in our favour.
“We didn’t stay at it long enough to create more chances, create more shots, get more traffic to the net and bury a few.”
Setoguchi added his fifth of the season with 4:56 to play to give the Sharks a 4-1 lead against the Blues, who were missing three of their top forwards and a pair of defencemen due to injury.
“We knew they were struggling with injuries,” Setoguchi said. “In the last two or three games, our starts have been great. Momentum just kind of carries over and builds, and we fed off it for the rest of the game.”
NOTES: Blues RW David Perron (concussion) missed his 21st game. He hasn’t played since Nov. 4 against San Jose when he had a mid-ice collision with Sharks C Joe Thornton, who was suspended two games for the hit. … Blues D Erik Johnson (knee) returned to the lineup after missing one game. To make room for Johnson, the Blues optioned D Nikita Nikitin to Peoria of the AHL. D Alex Pietrangelo (upper body) sat out a third game. … The Blues’ previous penalty shot was April 7, 2010, at Chicago when Brad Boyes scored off current Sharks G Antti Niemi.