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SAN JOSE http://www.arizonacardinalsteamonline.c ... sen-jersey , Calif. (AP) San Jose coach Peter DeBoer talks about Logan Couture as playing at another level at this time of the year. Couture proved his coach right once again.Couture scored his NHL-leading 16th go-ahead goal six minutes into the third period and the Sharks improved their chances for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.”It was a big power play,” Couture said. ”I think we moved the puck around OK on the first one we had. The second one, just a great play by (Kevin) Labanc to find me. (Goalie Jonathan) Bernier was out of the net. Actually, the puck hopped on my stick. I wasn’t trying to shoot it along the ice. I got a little lucky.”Justin Braun, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi also scored for the Sharks, who snapped a four-game losing streak and kept their one-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for second-place in the Pacific Division.”That’s not an easy game for us under the circumstances and some of the guys out,” DeBoer said. ”I thought we dug deep and found a way to win an important game at an important time of year.”Mikko Rantanen and Blake Comeau scored for the Avalanche, who missed an opportunity to increase their lead over the St. Louis Blues for a playoff spot.Martin Jones stopped 23 shots for the Sharks. Bernier saved 32 for the Avalanche.Less than three minutes into the first period, Braun scored on a slap shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off the arm or stick of a Colorado defender, giving Bernier no chance to adjust.”That was huge. We needed that just to kind of put those other teams in the rear view a little bit,” Braun said. ”If we hold onto second here on Saturday and go from there, get home ice in the first round. It would be huge.”The Avalanche tied the score with a power-play goal at 15:17. Jones blocked the first two shots but could not control them. The second bounced free toward the side, and Rantanen was able to get it by a diving Jones.Tyson Barrie earned an assist on the play, giving him a career-best 43. His 56 points match Rob Blake for most by an Avalanche defenseman in the past 16 years.Colorado has scored on the power play in each of its last four games and is 6 of 11 during that span. It also has allowed a power-play goal in each of the past five games.Couture scored on a power play 77 seconds after the Avalanche tied the game. Labanc recorded the first assist with a nice crossing pass.The Blues will enter Saturday’s game in Denver either up a point or down a point, meaning the final game of the regular season will determine which team goes to the playoffs and which team goes home.”We’ll have to take advantage of home ice. This is Game 7 for us,” said Mark Barberio, who returned to action after a long absence. ”These are the moments we play for: a chance to make the playoffs.”Donskoi scored midway through the final period to make it 3-1. Dylan DeMelo took a shot that Bernier stopped, but Donsoi took it away and put it in the net before Bernier could cover.Two minutes later Josh Rosen Jersey Limited , Comeau redirected a shot by David Warsofsky to make it 3-2.Hertl scored an empty-net goal in the final two seconds.”It comes down to one game. It’s going to be a fun one,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. ”We’ll have to earn every inch of the ice.”NOTES: Colorado C Carl Soderberg played in his 399th NHL game. … Couture has points in three of his last four games. … Sharks F Evander Kane missed his second straight game as a result of an upper-body injury sustained last Saturday in Las Vegas.UP NEXT:Avalanche: Host St. Louis on Saturday in the regular-season finale.Sharks: Host Minnesota on Saturday in the regular-season finale.— TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the brink of a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.Coach Jon Cooper and his players say it won’t be easy to close the deal against the Washington Capitals.”We haven’t won anything yet,” Cooper said Saturday night after Cedric Paquette scored in the opening minute and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots to help the Lightning hold off the Caps 3-2 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan also scored as the home team won for the first time in the best-of-seven matchup, with Tampa Bay taking a 3-2 series lead and moving within one victory of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four seasons.”Let’s be honest,” Cooper added. ”You’ve got to get four, not three.”The Capitals, in the conference final for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, have lost three straight after winning twice on the road to begin the series.Ovechkin scored with 1:36 remaining, trimming what once was a three-goal lead to one, however Vasilevskiy made three more saves to finish the victory.Game 6 is Monday night in Washington, where Tampa Bay has already won to improve to 5-1 on the road this postseason.”We have a lot of unfinished business. This isn’t even close to being over,” Callahan said. ”This last game’s definitely the hardest against a very, very good Washington team. ”To go in their building and try to close it out is going to be tough.”The Capitals were encouraged by the way they finished the game and are confident they can force the series back to Tampa for Game 7.”This group has got its backs against the wall, and this group has responded all year,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”I don’t expect anything different.”The Capitals won the first two games on the road, scoring 10 goals on Vezina Trophy finalist Vasilevskiy and sending the Lightning – won had the best record in the East during the regular season – into desperation mode.Tampa Bay responded by winning Game 3 in Washington, evening the series despite being outshot and outplayed for sizeable stretches of a 4-2 victory in Game 4 and returning home Authentic Julio Jones Jersey , where Cooper was confident the Lightning would be better than they were in the first two games.Turns out Cooper was right.Washington’s Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone on the opening shift of the night and Callahan made the Caps pay for the mistake, feeding Paquette for a 1-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game.Palat’s second goal of the series made it 2-0. Tampa Bay extended the advantage to three goals when Callahan scored 33 seconds into the second period.Outshot 13-4 and limited to one scoring opportunity in the opening period, the Caps began to put some pressure on Vasilevskiy in the second.Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a goal in his fourth straight game, giving him a franchise single-year, playoff-best 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and trimming Washington’s deficit to 3-1 at 4:21 of the period.The Capitals kept pressing in the third period, but didn’t breakthrough against until Ovechkin scored his 11th goal this postseason.”It’s not frustrating,” Ovechkin said. ”Of course, when you lose a game you feel bad. We just had a bad start. We didn’t handle the puck in the neutral zone. They got a lucky bounce and put in the first goal. That gave them momentum.””It’s disappointing, but I thought our second two periods were great,” Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said. ”We showed a lot of character. Character doesn’t always win you games, but I think it’s going to be important to have that feeling going into Game 6 at home.”Notes: The road team won each of the first four games of a series for the sixth time in the last 10 years and 26th time in Stanley Cup playoffs history. Under that scenario, the road team has won Game 5 only three times. … Paquette’s goal was his first in the playoffs since Game 3 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, ending a 34-game drought for the 24-year-old center. … At 19 seconds of the opening period, Palat’s goal was not the fastest to start a game in Lightning history. Adam Hall scored for Tampa Bay 13 seconds into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final against Boston in 2011. … Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky was a game-time scratch.—
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