|Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov, front, and San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc pursue the puck during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in Denver, Tuesday. AP-Yonhap|
San Jose center Gustav Nyquist had a couple of special deliveries this week.
On Monday, his wife gave birth to their first child. He rejoined the team Tuesday and assisted on Logan Couture recording his first career playoff hat trick.
"Perfect timing," the beaming new father said.
Couture scored three times, including the go-ahead goal with 7:10 remaining, and the Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Nyquist flew to Detroit to welcome his daughter, Charlotte, into the world. He returned to the team hours before the game and had two assists.
"It's been an emotional few days but an unbelievable feeling," Nyquist said.
Couture scored the winner when he sent a shot over the shoulder of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer. His goal was just 65 seconds after Matt Nieto tied the score. Couture sealed it on an empty-net goal with 29.5 seconds remaining. Timo Meier also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 24-16 all-time in Game 3 of a series.
Game 4 is Thursday in Denver.
Martin Jones stopped 25 shots.
Nathan MacKinnon also scored to help the Avalanche rebound from a 2-0 first-period deficit. Grubauer made 27 saves for Colorado, which snapped an eight-game home win streak.
"We worked hard. Maybe the bounces just weren't there,'' Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. ''In the playoffs you work for your bounces. You create your own luck and create your own chances."
The Avalanche went on the power play with 2:56 left when Couture was called for tripping. Colorado pulled Grubauer for an extra skater, but couldn't take advantage. Couture wrapped it up with an empty-net goal to register the hat trick. It was the sixth playoff hat trick in Sharks franchise history and first since Devin Setoguchi during Game 3 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
"I'd like to lie and say it doesn't mean something,'' Couture said. ''But it was special."
Nieto tied the score when Samuel Girard sent a shot at him. Nieto managed to tip it in while jumping in the air. As the crowd was still buzzing, Couture made a nifty move to score and silence the building. Couture has a playoff-leading nine goals.
"We haven't won. So I don't care what my numbers get to be,'' Couture said. ''I could go this whole playoffs and have zero points and if we win the Stanley Cup I'll be the happiest guy in this room."
Another thing that would bring a smile to his face? The return of captain Joe Pavelski, who didn't travel with the team after being hurt in the Vegas series.
"He's our leader. We miss him right now," Couture said. "We definitely miss him at times in the game. You're looking around and hoping he's here. We're hoping to play as long as we can so he can come back and play with us."
Down 2-0, Grubauer kept the Avalanche within reach during the second period. He had a shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic bounce off his glove and clang off the crossbar. Grubauer later stopped Evander Kane on a breakaway that energized the crowd.
Late in the period and with San Jose on the power play, Brent Burns tried to send a pass up the ice, only to have it intercepted near center-ice by defenseman Ian Cole. He dished it over to the speedy MacKinnon who raced into the zone and beat Jones with a wrist shot.
MacKinnon has at least a point in seven straight postseason games. The last Avalanche player with a point in seven straight was Peter Forsberg in the 2004 postseason.
Colorado once again teamed up a pair of 20-year-old defensemen in Cale Makar and Girard. The combined age of Makar and Girard is only slightly greater than Sharks forward Joe Thornton, who turns 40 in July.
Couture gave the Sharks the early lead when he fended off Makar down low and knocked in a backhand shot over Grubauer. Toward the end of the first period, Meier took advantage of a turnover by Erik Johnson in the neutral zone to give the Sharks a two-goal lead.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar wasn't exactly pleased with his team's decision making.
"To me we didn't consistently work for the puck. We didn't talk to the puck. In turn our execution was poor," Bednar said. "We made some bone-head decisions with the puck, too, at times."
NOTES: Meier scored his third goal of the 2019 playoffs after scoring 30 in the regular season. ... Colorado F Matt Calvert was out with an upper-body injury. ... The Avs are 6-9 all-time when dropping two of the first three games of a best-of-seven postseason series. (AP)