Logan Couture's Latest Heroics Lead Sharks to Game 3 Win Vs. Avalanche

Logan Couture was called many things by his teammates after the Sharks' 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff second-round series on Tuesday.

Linemate Timo Meier called him a "game-first guy." Goaltender Martin Jones called him a teammate that "every time, you can rely on."

But coach Peter DeBoer probably said it best after his top-line centered tallied a hat trick and carried San Jose to a Game 3 victory: He's a "big-game player."

"We had a bunch of big efforts tonight and he was right at the top of the list," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after San Jose's win. "You take it for granted, he does it all the time. In my time here, he's done that regularly at this time of year."

DeBoer isn't wrong -- Couture already is an elite hockey player, but he really turns it on when the NHL's second season gets underway.

In DeBoer's first season behind the Sharks' bench, Couture ended the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs leading all skaters with a whopping 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games. Keep in mind, that was after Couture missed nearly two months at the start of the season after snapping his fibula during an October practice. He to get back in the lineup, and then on the scoresheet on a regular basis. When it comes to the postseason, the Ontario native has a knack for coming up big for his team.

His nine goals through 10 games leads all players in the current Stanley Cup playoffs, and puts him in a three-way tie for most goals scored through the first 10 games of a playoff run. Couture's hat trick was the sixth in Sharks playoff history, the first since Devin Setoguchi's against the Detroit Red Wings eight years ago. The game-winner, which Couture scored just 1:05 after Avalanche forward Matt Nieto tied the game, was the third Couture has scored in the third period of a playoff game in his career. Only Joe Thornton (four), Joe Pavelski (four) and Patrick Marleau (eight) have scored more wearing a Sharks sweater, NBC Sports California statistician Darin Stephens found. 

More impressive, still, is where Couture lands on the list of other big goal-scorers through the playoffs. He now has 43 playoff goals since his postseason debut in 2010. The only player with more playoff goals this decade? Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, who has 50 to his name.

[RELATED: Watch Couture, Meier go bar down to give Sharks early lead]

Those accomplishments are noteworthy, but Couture isn't the type of player who dwells on them. As one of San Jose's veterans, Couture has built a reputation on being an incredibly hard worker and an even tougher critic -- especially of his own play. After the Sharks lost Game 2 on Sunday, he put a lot of the blame on himself.

But when it came to talking about his big performance in Game 3, Couture simply chalked it up to enjoying the opportunity to play in the playoffs.

"This is what you play hockey for, this is what you play 82 games for," Couture summarized. "I've been fortunate enough to play on some very good teams. These games are so much fun, you're playing for the ultimate prize."

As the Sharks' quest for the Cup continues, who knows how many more big-game moments are in store for Couture. 

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