San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) shoots on goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Ty Conklin (29) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
The San Jose Sharks survived nearly two whole periods without high-scoring rookie Logan Couture. Now they’re left hoping the lower body injury that sent him limping to the locker room isn’t too serious with the playoffs just more than three weeks away.
Joe Pavelski had two goals and an assist Saturday and the Sharks beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3 on a night they might have lost one of their top scorers.
San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than 8 minutes in and thoroughly dominated the Blues. But there was more of a cause for concern than celebration when Couture had to be helped to the locker room early in the second period with an apparent right leg injury.
“You could see he was in pain,” Pavelski said. “He’s meant a lot to this team. He’s been great. He brings a lot of energy to our team. But we have guys who are more than capable of stepping up. We hope it’s nothing serious. Hopefully he doesn’t even miss a day. If it is (serious), hopefully he’s back before crunch time gets going.”
Couture is officially listed as day to day. He was unable to put any weight on his leg as teammates Ryane Clowe and Ben Eager helped him off the ice after his skate slammed into the end boards 1:04 into the second.
“I’m not sure how he’s feeling, but it wasn’t pretty,” Clowe said.
Torry Mitchell, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi also scored and Antti Niemi made 42 saves for the Sharks, who have won three straight following a three-game losing streak to move within two points of Detroit for second place in the Western Conference.
T.J. Hensick scored his first goal in more than 16 months and David Backes and Andy McDonald added third-period scores for the Blues, who had won four of six.
“It looks like they found their game,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “Their puck movement puts them in a top-four spot and they have made a huge charge to get into that spot. Obviously, in this conference, if you are in the top four you are a pretty good team.”
Much of the energy left the Shark Tank after Couture’s injury. He has been one of San Jose’s most consistent performers all season, with a franchise rookie record 27 goals, including eight game-winners.
Niemi and Pavelski helped make sure the Sharks didn’t lose the game as well as Couture after Hensick got credit for his first goal since Nov. 8, 2009, when he kicked a puck off Douglas Murray’s skate to cut San Jose’s lead to 3-1.
Niemi came out with a couple of tough saves, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic cleared a puck off the goal line to preserve the two-goal lead. Setoguchi restored the three-goal advantage when his shot deflected off Blues defender Roman Polak and past Ty Conklin to make it 4-1.
Pavelski sealed the game when he deflected in Dan Boyle’s shot for his second goal of the night with 5.3 seconds remaining in the second period. Pavelski has three goals and eight assists in his last four games.
He almost had his first career hat trick, but a third goal was taken away after the game when officials ruled he didn’t deflect Marleau’s first-period shot.
“Points are coming,” Pavelski said. “We’re playing good. It’s not just points. I feel confident with the puck. The line’s been playing good. We’ve had lots of chances.”
The Sharks played without coach Todd McLellan, who was in Saskatchewan for his brother-in-law’s funeral. Assistant Trent Yawney ran the team in McLellan’s absence.
San Jose got off to a fast start against a team looking to play spoiler in the West. The Sharks scored three goals in a span of less than 4 minutes in the opening period to knock out Jaroslav Halak two nights after he shut out another playoff contender in a 4-0 win at Los Angeles.
“I think they have been doing everything that Todd has been preaching over the course of, probably the last month, and I thought we shot the puck early,” Yawney said. “I thought we broke them down by shooting the puck.”
Mitchell’s goal came on a rebound, while Marleau and Pavelski scored on the power play with shots that came from just inside the blue line as Halak left after allowing three goals on 10 shots in the first 7:41.
“You can’t blame much on Jaro when there are shots through screens, shots going off posts, and that’s the job of our forwards and defensemen to get into their shot lanes,” Backes said.