Tomas Hertl gave the Vancouver Canucks a glimpse of his budding stardom in the San Jose Sharks' season-opening victory one week ago, but few could have expected the outburst that has followed.
The 19-year-old rookie looks to continue the stellar start to his career while helping San Jose remain unbeaten as it visits streaking Vancouver on Thursday night.
Hertl picked up his first NHL point when he assisted on Brent Burns' second-period goal in a 4-1 win over the Canucks last Thursday. The 17th overall pick of the 2012 draft followed that effort by scoring twice in Saturday's 4-1 victory over Phoenix before netting four goals in a 9-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Hertl's final goal headlined plenty of highlight reels as he dropped the puck back through his skates and shot it into the top left corner with his stick between his legs.
"This is a dream," Hertl said. "This is crazy. I've never scored more than two in a game, maybe."
His teammates have been quite impressed.
"He likes to score goals, and you can see that by his celebrations," said captain Joe Thornton, who assisted on Hertl's second goal Tuesday. "He loves to put pucks in the back of the net, and as his teammates it's fun to watch him put pucks in the back of the net. It's been fun to watch in the first three games."
Jason Demers and Joe Pavelski had three assists apiece Tuesday while rookie Matthew Nieto scored his first NHL goal for San Jose (3-0-0), which has outscored opponents 17-4. Hertl has been a major reason for that disparity.
"I'm not even sure he realizes where he is," coach Todd McLellan said. "He's a passionate young man and he's playing freely."
The Sharks have won eight straight meetings with Vancouver, including last season's first-round postseason sweep, but the Canucks (3-1-0) haven't lost since dropping last week's contest.
Vancouver has spotted leads to its last three opponents before rallying, including overcoming a 2-0 deficit in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory over New Jersey. Mike Santorelli redirected Jason Garrison's shot into the net in the extra session.
"Early on in the season, it's good to happen that way. We'll be in these situations and hopefully we can fall back on some of the positive things that are going on," coach John Tortorella said. "There was no panic on our bench. We just started playing a little bit quicker and a little bit simpler."
Daniel Sedin added a goal and an assist for the Canucks, who are 1-2-2 in their last five home meetings with the Sharks, including the playoffs.
"We still have stuff to work on, it's obvious, but we'll get there," Sedin said.
Roberto Luongo picked up his 350th career victory with 21 saves Tuesday. He made 31 saves in the first meeting with San Jose and is 3-1-2 with a 2.09 goals-against average in his last six regular-season starts against the Sharks.
"Our mindset doesn't really change no matter what the score is," Luongo said. "You want to stay focused, you want to make saves, you want to keep the team in it."
San Jose's Antti Niemi made 21 saves in the last meeting with the Canucks. He's won his last eight starts, including the playoffs, with a 1.67 GAA against Vancouver.
Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart has been suspended for three games by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of Rangers forward Rick Nash.
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