PHILADELPHIA — A hat trick for one returning Olympian, two-goal efforts from their two key players coming back from injuries — the Sharks couldn't have scripted a better start to their stretch run than their 7-3 victory Thursday night over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Joe Pavelski registered his second hat trick in 11 games after going 527 without one to lead the San Jose scoring, Raffi Torres added two goals in his first game of the season and Logan Couture did the same in his first since Jan. 5. The victory came in San Jose's initial game after its 19-day break for the Sochi Olympics, where Pavelski had a goal and four assists for Team USA.
With Couture back, coach Todd McLellan had the option of using Pavelski as a third-line center to improve the Sharks' scoring depth.
Instead, he kept him on a line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, where he had scored 12 goals in January, including his first career hat trick Jan. 19 in Tampa, Fla.
“We talked about the fact that Joe Pavelski is one of the leading scorers in the NHL and he's one of the few consistent scorers we've had over the last little bit,” McLellan said before the game in explaining his decision to keep Pavelski at left wing. “We have 23 games to move people around, and we'll start this way.”
The Sharks scored on their first shot of the game and Torres' first shot of the season after recovering from knee surgery.
Torres positioned himself in front of the Flyers net just as the puck fired by Jason Demers at the right point arrived via a deflection or two. Flyers goalie Steve Mason had no chance, and San Jose had a 1-0 lead at 4:25.
But two Philadelphia goals 22 seconds apart midway through the first period changed the momentum in a hurry, as both Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn scored on Sharks goalie Alex Stalock.