VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Logan Couture had a look of disbelief.
The San Jose center had just missed Vancouver’s empty net - and his first NHL hat trick - by inches.
Thanks to an icing call and a Sharks timeout, he got another chance.
Couture got the first three-goal game of his career and James Reimer made 23 saves to help the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 Tuesday night.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Couture, who has 20 two-goal games. “A lot of close calls. It was nice to get it out of the way.”
Couture’s last three shifts timed in at over a minute, with the last one running 90 seconds, as the Sharks desperately tried to get him his third.
“I was going to go to the bench to change and everyone was telling me to stay on the ice,” Couture said. “I was going to be out there for the rest of the game regardless of what happened.”
The goals snapped a 10-game drought for Couture, who missed a big chunk of the season with a broken leg that was followed by surgery to repair internal bleeding.
“We’re a different team with him in the lineup,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We missed him.”
Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist for San Jose, which clinched a playoff spot Monday night with a 5-2 home victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Couture scored twice in the second period and added an empty-netter in this one.
The Canucks have lost nine straight. They got a goal from Chris Higgins, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 shots.
The Sharks are third in the Pacific Division, two points back of the Anaheim Ducks and three behind L.A.
The Canucks are 28th in the overall standings, tied for the fewest points (67) with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.
After a scoreless first period in which the Canucks had a number of chances to grab the lead, Pavelski got San Jose on the board 20 seconds into the second. Brent Burns’ point shot hit Markstrom’s glove and bounced off Pavelski, who swept home his 37th of the season.
Recalled from the AHL earlier this month after getting demoted in January, Higgins scored his third of the season and first since Nov. 8 when he ripped a shot over Reimer’s glove for a short-handed goal at 6:21.
The goal came with Vancouver down a man after rookie forward Jake Virtanen was assessed a 5-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct for a blindside hit on Sharks defenseman Roman Polak.
Couture restored San Jose’s lead with 11 seconds left in the period when he caused a turnover behind the net and slid his 11th of the season past Markstrom after a nice kick pass from Nick Spaling in front.
The Canucks had a power play early in the third period, but Reimer made a couple of nice stops to keep the visitors in front before Vancouver rookie Jared McCann sent a backhand over the net on a great chance a few minutes later.
Couture then beat Markstrom between the legs on a 5-on-3 with 5:59 left in the third to seal it with his 12th.
He completed the hat trick into an empty net with 16.4 seconds remaining.
Without a number of injured regulars - including defensemen Alexander Edler and Luca Sbisa, along with forwards Brandon Sutter, Radim Vrbata and Derek Dorsett - the Canucks have been forced to go with their youngsters as they play out the string.
“I think we’re more structured, we play within the system, and that’s when we can start talking about execution,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said. “We’re missing a few passes, break-out passes are off … we’re not making the passes on the tape. At least now we can start talking about those things.”
Vancouver had a bright start against San Jose and a couple of chances to grab a lead in the first after Joonas Donskoi hit the post for the Sharks less than a minute in.
Daniel Sedin couldn’t control a bouncing puck at the side of the net, Alexandre Burrows was robbed by Reimer’s glove and Bo Horvat made a nice move before firing a shot that just grazed the San Jose goalie’s shoulder and stayed out.
The Sharks had the period’s final chance when Couture jumped on a turnover, but Markstrom was there to close the door.
NOTES: The teams will play again on Wednesday night in San Jose.
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