Labanc gets back on board in loss
Winger’s early goal against Columbus is his first in 11 games
SAN JOSE » Sharks winger Kevin Labanc wouldn’t be entirely forthcoming if he said the 10-game goal drought he carried into Thursday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets wasn’t weighing on him in some fashion.
But Labanc, in his third professional season, is also mature enough to realize there’s only positive way to react.
Starting on a line with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, Labanc scored his first goal since Oct. 5 at the 11:50 mark of the first period, but the Blue Jackets answered with four of their own, including an empty-netter, to beat the Sharks 4-1 win at SAP Center.
Anthony Duclair and Seth Jones each scored once and Nick Foligno added two for Columbus, with Jones’ goal at the 9:15 mark of the second period giving his team a one-goal lead.
The loss snapped the Sharks’ point streak at six games (4- 0-2). San Jose hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
With his forwards failing to generate many quality scoring chances, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, starting late in the second period, once again shuffled up his forward lines, as Couture and Hertl finished the game with Timo Meier on the other wing.
While the Sharks applied more pressure and finished with 45 shots on net, they weren’t able to beat Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky a second time.
The Blue Jackets also blocked a staggering 30 shots.
“You have them some credit.
They’re a big, heavy, hard team. They box out, they’re hard around the net,” DeBoer said. “It’s a John Tortorella- coached team, that’s what they take pride in. So we knew it was going to be hard to get to the net tonight, but you have to find a way.
“You’re going to play teams like that if you want to go anywhere in the playoffs, and you have to fight through that stuff, and we didn’t do enough of that.”
Labanc started the season on a line with Couture and Hertl, and had the game-winning goal in overtime for the Sharks in their 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 5.
But despite 23 shots on goal since that point, Labanc entered Thursday still looking for his second goal of the season. He has had six assists in the last 10 games, with four coming in San Jose’s 8-2 win over Philadelphia on Oct. 8.
“You definitely feel more confident,” after you score, Labanc said after the game. “You feel 10 pounds lighter, so it’s a good feeling, and you just kind of roll with it and you take it into the next game.”
There’s no question Labanc’s been creating opportunities for himself at even strength. According to naturalstattrick.com, Labanc had a Corsi-for percentage of 63.37 in the Sharks’ first 12 games, and has had 37 high-danger scoring chances.
“Get the monkey off your back, but it obviously stinks we didn’t get the two points tonight,” Labanc said. “We just have to worry about our upcoming game.”
Couture and Hertl both carried seven- game point streaks into Thursday, with Couture collecting five goals and seven assists in that span and Hertl producing three goals and eight assists.
Couture’s assist on Labanc’s goal extended his point streak to eight games, matching the longest streak of his career, which came during the 2011-12 season.
Still, the Sharks had trouble getting anything going in the first two periods when they found themselves down by two after 40 minutes.
“We weren’t good,” Couture said. “We didn’t pass well, we didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t spend enough time in their end, we didn’t forecheck. We turned pucks over. We can go down the list, we did a lot of things wrong tonight and we got what we deserved.”
Couture, Hertl and Labanc were on the ice quite a bit against the Blue Jackets’ top line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson when the two teams were at even strength Thursday. It’s nothing new. Since Couture and Hertl were put together on the same line at the start of last season, they’ve typically been responsible for not only generating offense, but also slowing down the opposing team’s top players.
Joe Thornton was playing in his second game back after miss- ing nine games with an infection in his right knee. He again started Thursday’s game on a line with Joe Pavelski and Meier, who was carrying a nine-game point streak.
• Meier was named the Sharks Foundation’s player of the month for October with nine goals and five assists.
“With Jumbo out, there’s no doubt those guys feel like they should dominate for us every night,” DeBoer said of Couture and Hertl.
“It’s a big ask. We play them usually against the other team’s top players every night and we’re asking them to create offense.”
The Sharks’ Kevin Labanc celebrates his first period goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi, left, battles the Blue Jackets for the puck in front of the net during Thursday night’s game in San Jose.