The San Jose Sharks‘ center became the first rookie to get seven game-winning goals on the road in a season when he broke a scoreless tie with 8:05 to play Tuesday night in a 2-0 win over the Washington Capitals.
For the second game in a row, the Sharks won 2-0. For the second game in a row, Couture scored the first goal. He got the opener in the win at Boston on Saturday after missing the previous two games with the flu.
“Jeez, it’s getting to the point where you don’t want to call him a rookie any more,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said, “because he plays big minutes, he’s scoring huge goals. For a guy that just came off the flu, he was very effective.”
Antti Niemi had 25 saves to post back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his career, and Dan Boyle added a late goal as the Sharks won their fourth straight and extended their points streak to nine games. They are perfect three games into a seven-game road trip.
The goal was Couture’s 24th — most among NHL rookies — and his eighth game-winner overall. On the way to the arena, San Jose public relations official Tom Holy informed Couture that the rookie was tied with Capitals two-time MVP Ovechkin for the league lead with seven.
The goal came when Ben Eager led Couture just enough to take the pass in open ice at the left circle and put the shot through the legs of goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Boyle doubled the lead from the right circle with 5:53 to go
As has been the case for a surprising number of games recently, Ovechkin was barely a factor. The Capitals, whose offensive struggles have threatened to cancel out the team’s improved defensive play, were shut out for the eighth time this season and the second time in five games.
Washington managed just four shots on goal in a lifeless second period, and the loss stifled the momentum gained from back-to-back victories over Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
“They decided to get cute since they had a little bit of success,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But (when) you don’t stick with the game plan, bad things usually happen.”
The Capitals actually put the puck in the net in the first period but were done in by a quick whistle. Alexander Semin, back after missing 12 games with a groin injury, took a shot that squeezed between Niemi’s legs and came to rest tantalizingly in front of the net.
“I don’t know how it ended up there,” Niemi said. “Of course, after that kind of situation you feel a little bit lucky.”
Said Boudreau: “It was deflating. Obviously it shouldn’t have blown. The referee came up and apologized. Doesn’t do us a lot of good. We are a team that plays a lot better with a lead these days than coming from behind, so it probably would’ve helped us. But you can’t blame that one chance, we didn’t get opportunities because we didn’t deserve them.”