“I don’t know if there’s going to be many 5-0 games,” said San Jose head coach Todd McLellan, commenting on the Kings’ third-period comeback, “but if there is, then we’ll have to have a little more composure than we did in the third period.”
The first period
San Jose jumped out to the early lead on the strength of a tremendous play by Brent Burns. Burns carried the puck along half wall, then quickly reversed course and circled toward the corner before skating behind the net. Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr checked him into the boards, but not before Burns fed the puck to Joe Pavelski, who backhanded a one-timer that Joe Thornton tipped past Jonathan Quick for the 1-0 lead.
The Sharks extended the lead to 2-0 at 19:08 of the opening period thanks to a fortunate bounce of the puck. Justin Braun directed a breakout pass to Tommy Wingels, who curled and then passed the puck to James Sheppard. Sheppard gyrated to the ice like a top in a failed attempt to one-time it, with the puck ricocheting off his skate to a waiting Tomas Hertl. Hertl saw a wide open half of the net in front of him and deposited it home. Just 48 seconds later, Matt Nieto and Patrick Marleau executed a perfect 2-1 rush after Mike Richards’ shorthanded effort was thwarted, with Marleau taking the cross-crease pass and driving it into the net, extending the San Jose lead to 3-0.
“We were just sloppy,” explained Kings captain Dustin Brown. Regarding the Sharks’ final goal of the period, he shrugged and said, “When you give their team odd-man opportunities that’s what happens.”
The second period
San Jose continued to dominate the game in the second period. Marc-Edouward Vlasic entered the Kings zone with speed and fired a shot which rang off the post. The puck bounced directly to Raffi Torres in the slot, who flipped it past Quick for the 4-0 advantage at the 12:57 mark. Later in the period, Vlasic converted on a 4-3 rush while on the power play, increasing the lead to 5-0.
“They were good periods,” McLellan said of the first 40 minutes. “We didn’t give up very much, we got on the attack and had everybody involved. I thought our goaltender made some real good saves in those two periods to keep us ahead. Special teams worked well.”
The Sharks lose focus in the thirdDespite being thoroughly outplayed in the first two periods and even with their offensive struggles this year, the Kings are a dangerous, veteran club, capable of mounting a comeback. And indeed they did, shifting the momentum 180 degrees in their favor for the majority of the third period. It was as if a switch flipped, and suddenly, the ice was tilted in the direction of the Sharks’ net. Los Angeles had the jump, the extra gear, with the bounces going their way instead of San Jose’s.
At 2:01, Jake Muzzin scored on a wrist shot from the top of the left circle, and less than five minutes later, Slava Voynov made a nice move to elude James Sheppard, then fired a shot through traffic that beat Niemi. Finally, with 6:01 to go in the game, Jeff Carter’s shot from a hard angle deflected off a camping Trevor Lewis and into the net, cutting the Sharks’ lead to 5-3. However, that’s as close as the Kings could get, as Brent Burns sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final minute to complete the 6-3 victory.
“We got fortunate with a couple of those goals. We just had some fortunate bounces,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. Todd McLellan put the results of one game in perspective: “You can stink the place out or you can be the best you’ve ever been. It’s over, move on.”
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter took the sword for his team’s poor start: “Coming into a building like this, you have to be prepared to face a little bit of an onslaught in the first part of the game, and obviously I didn’t do a good enough job of getting our players prepared for that.”
Game two is Sunday night at the HP Pavilion, and it’s a virtual certainty that L.A. will come out with fire in their eyes. Unlike grandma on the annoying commercials, although Los Angeles has clearly fallen, you can bet they’ll get right back up.