La­banc scores twice, is burned by penal­ties in Sharks loss

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & NATIONAL SPORTS -

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (TNS) — It’s tough to say how Kevin La­banc will re­mem­ber his night Wed­nes­day.

The 21-year-old La­banc, start­ing his sec­ond full sea­son of pro­fes­sional hockey, be­came the first San Jose Sharks player to score twice in the first pe­riod of a sea­son-open­ing game.

But La­banc took three penal­ties that all re­sulted in Philadel­phia goals, in­clud­ing Wayne Sim­monds’ goa­head goal with 10:33 left in the third pe­riod. Sim­monds added an empty-net­ter with 35.7 sec­onds left to give the Fly­ers a 5-3 win over the Sharks at SAP Cen­ter. The Sharks had won seven straight sea­son-open­ing games.

La­banc was called for trip- ping Fly­ers rookie Nolan Pa­trick at the 9:21 mark. Just 12 sec­onds later, Sim­monds redi­rected a shot from Jakub Vo­racek to give the Fly­ers the lead for good.

La­banc was called for goalie in­ter­fer­ence in the first pe­riod and slash­ing in the sec­ond pe­riod. Both times, the Fly­ers made the Sharks pay.

The Fly­ers took a 3-2 lead with 2:24 left in the sec­ond pe­riod as Sim­monds scored his first of the year, again on a redi­rec­tion of a shot from the point, this time from Shayne Gostis­be­here. In the first pe­riod, Claude Giroux scored with the man ad­van­tage af­ter a Martin Jones give­away.

Lo­gan Cou­ture scored a power play goal with 16:48 left in the third pe­riod to tie the game 3-3.

Cou­ture got a bit for­tu­nate as he took a pass from Brent Burns and fired a back­hand pass to the front of the net that went off Fly­ers de­fense­man An­drew McDon­ald’s skate and past goalie Brian El­liott. Burns’ as­sist gave him 500 points for his NHL ca­reer.

Ofen­sively, though, La­banc was the main fig­ure, as he be­gan his sopho­more year with a pair of high­light-reel goals.

With Philadel­phia up 2-0, La­banc cut the Fly­ers’ lead to one with 2:43 left in the first. Brenden Dil­lon let a shot go from in­side the blue line that was saved by Philadel­phia goalie Brian El­liott, but La­banc was parked right in front of the net and bat­ted the puck in af­ter it bounced high off El­liott’s pad.

With just 19 sec­onds left in the first, La­banc pounced on a clear­ing at­tempt by Fly­ers winger Dale Weise, took a few strides to­ward the net and fired a wrist shot in the up­per left side to tie the game 2-2.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer dressed all his vet­er­ans for Wed­nes­day’s game, putting Joel Ward and Melker Karls­son on the wings of the fourth line with cen­ter Chris Tier­ney. Ryan Car­pen­ter and Bar­clay Goodrow, who made the team out of train­ing camp and spent the bulk of last sea­son in the AHL, were scratched.

Still, the team’s two youngest play­ers were in sig­nif­i­cant roles.

La­banc played with Joe Thorn­ton and Joe Pavel­ski on the Sharks’ top line and Timo Meier, 20, was on the third line with cen­ter To­mas Hertl and fel­low winger Jan­nik Hansen.

La­banc and Meier knew com­ing in there were no guar­an­tees it would last more than one game.

“Noth­ing’s ever set in stone,” La­banc said Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “My spot could eas­ily be taken by any­body. I just have to work hard, take the mo­men­tum I got from the pre­sea­son and ap­ply it into the reg­u­lar sea­son.”

It’s just a mat­ter of pro­duc­ing on a con­sis­tent ba- sis. La­banc had seven goals and 12 points in his first 25 reg­u­lar sea­son games as a rookie, but just one goal in his last 31 games.

Be­sides the ad­di­tional scor­ing punch that the Sharks hope La­banc can pro­vide, can he take what he learned last year when he was on the top line and ap­ply it to right now?

“We’ll see. He’s go­ing to get a chance. I don’t have the an­swer to that,” DeBoer said. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity. I think he’s done the work to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity. He came in great shape, spent the sum­mer here and has had a re­ally good train­ing camp. But you’ve got to put that into real-time once the sea­son starts.”

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