DENVER — San Jose centre Gustav Nyquist had a couple of special deliveries this week.
On Monday, his wife gave birth to their first child. He rejoined the team on 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 and welcomed 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 sent a shot over the shoulder of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer just 65 seconds after Matthew 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 had a goal and Nieto added another to help the Avalanche rebound from a 2-0 first-period deficit. Philipp 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 centre-ice by defenceman 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 post-season games. The last Avalanche player with a point in seven straight was Peter Forsberg in the 2004 post-season.
Colorado once again teamed up a pair of 20-year-old defencemen in Cale Makar and Samuel 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.
It was Meier’s third goal of the 2019 playoffs after scoring 30 in the regular season.
“We just couldn’t find it,” MacKinnon said. “They outplayed us.”
NOTES: Colorado F Matt Calvert was out with an upper-body injury. … With Colorado and the Denver Nuggets both in the second round, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was asked if the ice was at all an issue as the Pepsi Center goes through constant conversions. “Not for me,” Bednar said. “It didn’t seem to hurt us in the Calgary series.”