Labanc scores twice, is burned by penalties in Sharks loss
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.”