Kahkonen's 'best game of the year' helps Sharks top Montreal Canadiens

Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News on

Published in Hockey

Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture both scored third-period goals and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen led a brilliant penalty kill as the San Jose Sharks opened a four-game road trip Tuesday with a 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

The Sharks, with the NHL’s best penalty kill, erased all six Canadiens’ power plays, including a two-man advantage that expired early in the third period.

Kahkonen finished with 28 saves, including four while the Sharks were shorthanded, as he earned the third shutout of his career and his first in San Jose.

“That’s great, but it also tells tell a lot about the way we played as a team tonight,” Kahkonen told NBC Sports California about his first Sharks shutout. “Huge blocks, huge kills, good sticks on the (penalty kill), taking away seams and boxing out guys so I could see pucks.”

Just 31 seconds after Jaycob Megna’s delay of game penalty ended, aided by a big shot block by defenseman Matt Benning on Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson, Hertl scored his sixth of the season at the 2:29 mark of the third period for a 2-0 Sharks lead. Hertl redirected a pass from Kevin Labanc past Canadiens goalie Jake Allen.

Couture scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season on a breakaway for a 3-0 Sharks lead at the 3:34 mark, and now has seven goals in his last eight games. His nine goals this month match his career-high for one calendar month, set in Dec. 2011.

Hertl scored an empty net goal with 2:14 left in the third period and Matt Nieto scored in the first period as the Sharks (8-13-4) won for just the second time in their seven games.

“We needed it,” Sharks coach David Quinn said of the win. “Obviously it was a funny game. We haven’t had that type of game in a long time, so special teams were huge, our penalty kill was huge. That kill at the start of the third period, and a huge block by (Matt) Benning gave us a little bit of juice and we score right after it.


“But we needed it.”

The night, though, belonged to Kahkonen, who earned his first shutout since March 16, 2021, when he made 31 saves in a 3-0 win by the Minnesota Wild over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Sharks also helped out Kahkonen with 28 blocked shots. Nick Bonino had five blocks, Marc-Edouard Vlasic had four, and Benning had three.

“I think he’s getting back to the level that we all expect him to be and I thought this was his best game of the year,” Quinn said. “He really looked comfortable in net.”

Nieto’s goal, his fifth of the season, came just 1:33 into the first period as he got enough of a loose puck after an Alexander Barabanov wraparound attempt to get it over the goal line for a 1-0 Sharks lead.

Kahkonen would have to do his best work to keep the Sharks in the lead, as he stopped 14 shots through two periods, with three saves coming on five Montreal power plays. The Sharks came into Tuesday with the No. 1 ranked penalty kill at 90.2 percent.

The Sharks’ road trip continues with games in Toronto on Wednesday, Ottawa on Saturday, and Buffalo on Sunday. The Sharks are now 6-5-0 on the road this season.

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