PHILADELPHIA-Picking the three stars of the game after the San Jose Sharks dismantled the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3 was a no-brainer Thursday night.
First star: Joe Pavelski, with a hat trick that gave the returning Olympian 32 goals for the season and a tie for second-most in the NHL.
"Life is good," said Pavelski after being reminded it was his second hat trick in 12 games after going 527 without one. "Hope they keep coming."
Second star: Logan Couture, with two goals in his first game since Jan. 5 after recovering from hand surgery.
"Kind of felt a little sluggish, kind of like I was in a fog," said Couture, despite his offensive success. "Feet and brain were moving a little slow. Kind of felt better in the third."
Third star: Raffi Torres, with two goals in his first game all season after tearing up his knee in an exhibition game.
"My dad always says, 'Go to the net, go to the net.' I heard him today," said Torres, whose two goals came from close range. "Sometimes I don't hear him."
And though there was a rough patch in the first period before the Sharks blew the game open with five unanswered goals in the second, Sharks coach Todd McLellan was more than pleased with the overall effort.
"We haven't put up that many goals in a long time," he said. "You have to add games up to get seven. It's nice to play like that."
The seven goals were the most San Jose has scored all season with the exception of a 9-2 rout of the New York Rangers back in early October. And they needed six games to score seven in a stretch shortly before the 20-day Olympic break.
The offense showed up early, as Torres scored at 4:25 of the first period when he was in the perfect spot to bat in a carom of a shot by Jason Demers past Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
But Philadelphia goals by Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn just 22 seconds apart midway through the opening period gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead-and all the momentum-going into the first intermission.
"The break between periods did us well," McLellan said. "We talked about a few things, we got to stop and think about what we were doing and not doing."
The second period belonged to San Jose, as the Sharks scored five unanswered goals-avenging their 5-2 loss on Feb. 3 when Philadelphia four unanswered during the third period in San Jose.
Pavelski had the first two goals-one on the power play and one at even strength-by 10:12 to give the Sharks the lead for a second time. Couture got the first of his two goals 45 seconds later to make it 4-2 and end Mason's night, but backup goalie Ray Emery didn't fare much better.
Pavelski got his hat trick at 14:10 when a shot trickled its way to the front and onto the Sharks forward's stick. Both Pavelski and Emery seemed equally surprised when the puck wound up in the net and San Jose had a 5-2 lead.
"It was nice to see it get there," Pavelski said of the puck. "I think I told (Brent Burns), thanks for letting that one go through his legs. He wasn't letting it go through his legs, it just happened to get through."
Torres made it 6-2 from just outside the crease once again as he scored with 2.2 seconds left in the period, and at that point the Flyers were banging sticks on the ice.
The teams traded goals in the third period, with Couture capitalizing on a short-handed scoring chance and Flyers defenseman Matt Read wrapping up the scoring at 12:12.
The win moved the Sharks within five points of the idle Anaheim Ducks with each team having 22 games left to play.
-Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl skated for the first time Thursday since the Dec. 19 game in which his right knee was damaged. The 20-year-old Czech native spent about 15 minutes on the ice and spent more time gliding than anything else.
"Just an easy skate," Hertl said, adding later: "I feel OK. No pain."
There is no timetable for his return.