SAN JOSE, Calif. – Tomas Hertl made an impressive playoff debut for the San Jose Sharks with a goal and an assist against the same Los Angeles Kings team that almost ended his season.
With 52 seconds left in the first period Thursday night, Hertl scored his first career playoff goal, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead en route to a 6-3 victory in Game 1 of their first-round series.
“I’m very excited,” Hertl said Friday. “It’s my first game and my first goal in the playoffs. I’m very happy. It’s a good game. I’m very happy, beating L.A.”
Hertl hadn’t scored a goal since Dec. 12 against the Minnesota Wild, one week before he took a knee-on-knee hit from Kings captain Dustin Brown, damaging two ligaments. Hertl underwent surgery on Dec. 31 and missed the next 45 games.
He returned to play in the final two regular-season games but Sharks coach Todd McLellan still wondered how he’d respond in a playoff game after being sidelined for nearly four months.
Hertl, skating on the third line with centre James Sheppard and forward Tommy Wingels, quickly answered that question. He had a huge first period with four shots and a goal. He also drew a holding penalty on Kings defenceman Drew Doughty on a breakaway, giving San Jose its first power play of the game.
Hertl added his first career post-season assist on Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal late in the second period that gave San Jose a 5-0 lead.
“It’s crazy the way he was able to recover so quick, and now he’s had a huge impact for us in the playoffs,” said fellow Sharks rookie Matt Nieto. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll continue to score throughout the playoffs. It’s a huge boost for us.”
At this point, the Sharks shouldn’t be surprised by anything Hertl does. He scored two goals in his second NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 5. Three nights later, Hertl scored four goals against the New York Rangers.
Hertl had 15 goals and 10 assists in his first 35 games before being injured.
“I think there’s still more,” Sheppard said. “His skill is just starting to show, and it’s going to come with more and more confidence. I’m sure he’s more than ecstatic to be back, but he’s got a lot more to give. I know that for sure.”
Game 2 is Sunday night in San Jose.