In a game which saw the momentum swing more wildly than a Ben Eager roundhouse punch, the San Jose Sharks capitalized on a Alec Martinez turnover in overtime and scored on a Joe Pavelski wrister from the high slot, beating the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2 Thursday night. With the win, San Jose took game one of the first ever all-California series.
I’m not kidding about Ben Eager’s punches. Check out this fight between Eager and Kyle Clifford at the tail end of the first period:
The prelude to the series saw the teams practically tiptoe around one another, offering up almost humanitarian quotes about how beneficial it would be to have three California teams in the playoffs. “You saw Anaheim win the Cup a few years aback and San Jose has been there for awhile, we just need to break through, and LA’s been an up-and-coming team and it’s good to see,” commented Joe Pavelski. Hearing that, Kings coach Terry Murray made a herculean effort to be even more banal by saying, “It’s nice to see the three California teams in the playoffs. That’s exciting not just for the National Hockey League but also the minor hockey programs in all three of the cities. We’re excited for that.”
The game began with a bang – literally – as just 28 seconds after the puck dropped, Ian White fed Ryan Clowe, who fired a shot from a hard angle that ricocheted off Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick and directly onto the stick of Dany Heatley, who banged it into the open portion of the net for the early 1-0 lead. The goal served as the electric cattle prod the Sharks needed as they then proceeded to throw everything they had at the Kings, firing shot after shot upon Quick, who turned aside everything else in the period. After one period, despite outshooting Los Angeles 14-3, San Jose held the same slim 1-0 advantage. “It was probably the worst situation possible, for a start”, said Kings’ center Jarret Stoll. “The building was going crazy. We had a lot of guys that were playing their first-ever playoff games, and the fire drill was on, for sure. We just tried to stay calm on the bench and just getting pucks in, keep shooting pucks in on their D, being physical and just having a north attitude with the puck. It slowly, slowly turned, and we started getting our game.” The period also saw a controversial hit by Jarret Stoll on Sharks’ defenseman Ian White, which caused him to exit the game.
The turn started in the second period, which saw the switch suddenly flip over and the momentum swing toward Los Angeles. The Kings modus operandi is their cycle, which they began working effectively behind the net and around the perimeter. With just under thirteen minutes left in the second period, the momentum turned on a dime, twice: Drew
Doughty coughed up the puck while on the power play, leading to a three-on-one shorthanded break which saw rookie sensation Logan Couture fire a shot just wide of the net. The puck ringed around the boards and onto the stick of Justin Williams, who led a three-on-one break the other direction, finally passing to Dustin Brown, who one-timed it past San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, tying the game 1-1.
Three minutes later, however, Couture was able to exact a measure of revenge, as he raced past a spectacularly failed hipcheck effort of Drew Doughty, closed in on Quick, and snapped the puck short side, between Quick’s pads and into the net, retaking the lead 2-1. Coture, who is a close friend of Doughty, said, “I didn’t realize it was him until afterward,” possibly because Doughty was tumbling on his backside while Couture was scoring the goal. The lead energized the Sharks for the next several minutes, but once again, momentum swung quickly back to Los Angeles, as with just under four minutes left in the period, Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle played rock-’em, sock-’em robots behind their own net and collided, leaving the puck on the stick of the recently-activated Justin Williams, who tucked it quickly into the net on a wraparound, tying the score. On Williams, Terry Murray said, “Williams played really well, very well. He’s very creative, and he did the stuff he’s been doing for us all year long. Holding onto the puck, he’s able to get away from pressure, he’s able to find people, he’s got good vision on the ice and he definitely had impact on the game tonight.” After two periods, Los Angeles had closed an early, large shot disparity to 23-19, with momentum firmly on their side.
In the third period, both teams had their chances, but neither was able to score and the game ultimately went to overtime, tied 2-2.
In the overtime, momentum became Joe-mentum, as Alec Martinez pinched into the high slot and lost the puck, which glanced off Wayne Simmonds’ stick and over to Ryan Clowe. Clowe raced the other direction in tandem with Kyle Wellwood who received the puck, then slid a pass over to the trailing Joe Pavelski while Clowe created space by driving the net. Pavelski, with two previous career playoff overtime winners already under his belt, wristed it glove high past Quick at 14:44 for the game winner. With that, San Jose enjoyed the final momentum surge of a thrilling playoff battle, while grabbing the all-important series momentum.
San Jose had lost the opening game of the three previous playoffs, so winning game one was big for their collective psyche. Regarding the hard hits throughout the game, Ryan Clowe said, “It was a physical battle. I’ve said I think rivalries begin in the playoffs. We might have something brewing.” Have you been reading my The Hockey Writers articles, Ryan? (http://thehockeywriters.com/sharks-hoping-to-brew-a-cup-of-joe-this-year/)
Game two is scheduled for 7:00 PDT at the HP Pavilion. Bring your metronome – you’re gonna need it.