SAN JOSE -- Logan Couture had just gone tumbling into the boards, gotten up gingerly, grabbed his left calf and headed immediately through the tunnel into the locker room without stopping on the bench.
So what was his coach thinking four minutes into the second period of Game 3 when his star player disappeared in obvious pain?
"When's he going to be back? Simple as that," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Sunday.
When, not if?
"Yeah, when," McLellan said. "With Logan, it's always when."
The answer turned out to be the 18:47 mark of the same period, when Couture jumped over the boards during a timeout to test his injured leg and triggered a roar from the attentive home crowd.
Couture went on to skate one 27-second shift before the period ended, an even nine minutes in the third and was on the ice the entire overtime before scoring the goal that gave the Sharks a 2-1 victory and the chance to even their series with the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.
Sunday, wearing workout shorts that showed a swelling on his left knee, Couture treated his accomplishment very matter of factly.
"It's playoffs. Everyone plays through injuries. The four years I've been here, I've seen guys play through a lot of injuries," said Couture, specifically mentioning Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe in the 2011 postseason. "Stanley Cup is what you're playing for. Whatever it takes."
He fielded the basic questions, providing only basic answers.
How did he feel?
"I'm good," Couture said. "I mean we won a game last night that we needed to win. It was a big win."
Did that win take away some of the pain?
"I don't know," he said. "At playoff time you play through things. It's just good to win."
Was he concerned he might not get back on the ice in Game 3?
"Trainers did a great job, doctors did a good job," Couture said. "I wanted to come back and play, and that's what we did."
Couture did talk about the play that forced him to leave the game. He and Kings forward Jeff Carter were pursuing the puck along the side boards.
"Carter pushed me a little bit, and I think I stepped on the puck," Couture said. "I haven't seen the full replay of it yet."
After leaving the ice, Couture was able to follow the game on a training room television. He said it was tough watching his teammates cover for his absence as well as that of Marty Havlat, who left the game in the first period.
"I was doing whatever I could to get out there as quick as I could," Couture said.
Describing his winning goal at 1:29 of overtime, he credited the sharp passing from Thornton along the right side to Patrick Marleau and the setup that followed to Couture in the slot.
"(Jonathan) Quick overslid a little bit, and I was able to get it up past his glove," Couture said. "You're in tight on him and you know you have to get it upstairs because he takes the bottom away."
But again, he wanted to shift some of the spotlight away from himself.
"We didn't win just because of me. We won because other guys stepped up and played well," he said, including goalie Antti Niemi and the defense corps as well as the forwards who had to cover for him while he was undergoing treatment. "I wasn't out there the entire second period and guys played extremely well. Everybody."
Others, however, recognized the significance of Couture's return even before he scored on the game's final shot.
"In my opinion, he's probably the leader of this team," defenseman Brad Stuart said immediately after the win. "To have him come back was huge and just a boost to the guys mentally, if nothing else."
Still, Couture played down the leadership aspect of what he did in Game 3 on Saturday.
"I'd hope that every player on this team would play through injuries and do whatever they can to help us win," he said. "That's what hockey players do."
GAME 4: Los Angeles at Sharks, 7 p.m., NBCSN
Purdy: Players try to take officiating in stride. Page 2
Notebook: Sharks say their point production is bound to pick up. Page 3
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