On the strength of two goals by last year’s Norris-finalist Drew Doughty, a dominating special teams effort, and 34 saves by Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings reeled in home ice advantage by defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-0 in game two of their Western conference quarterfinal series. Game three is scheduled for Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Good teams find a way through adversity,” said Kings left winger Ryan Smyth, explaining how Los Angeles was able to overcome the loss of their top two centers and deliver an impressive performance in front of 17,562 pocket-protected computer nerds at the HP Pavilion. “You have to dig deep.”
With star player Anze Kopitar out for the remainder of the playoffs and second-line center Jarret Stoll serving a one-game suspension for driving Sharks’ defenseman Ian White hard into the boards during the first period of game one, the Kings seemed on the verge of a major power outage. Already offensively-challenged even at full strength, Los Angeles was forced to insert rookie Trevor Lewis onto the second line to replace Stoll. Although he didn’t directly figure into the scoring, Lewis showed good chemistry with Ryan Smyth and helped anchor a penalty killing unit that killed all five San Jose power plays.
Doughty may not have won the Norris, but he looked like Chuck Norris on the ice in this game – a man amongst boys. At 12:13 of the first period and with the Kings on the power play, Doughty wound up at the right point, faked a shot, and then slid the puck over to Jack Johnson, who blasted it home for the early 1-0 lead. “We were moving the puck well,” explained Doughty. ” We studied the PK and we saw tendencies and we exploited them. We moved the puck quick, found the seams and got the puck to the net.”
Just 3:30 later and after a Ryan Clowe minor penalty for elbowing, Drew “Norris” took matters into his own hands. Jack Johnson passed the puck to Ryan Smyth at the blue line who entered the zone while Wayne Simmonds drove the net. The San Jose defense reacted by collapsing around Antti Niemi, leaving Doughty all alone at the high slot. Doughty collected the Smyth pass and fired the puck past Niemi for the 2-0 Los Angeles edge. Despite being outshot 15-10 in the first period, the Kings were firmly in control as the buzzer sounded.
Pleased to the point that he actually generated a pulse, Kings’ coach Terry Murray said, “The right guys stepped up in Doughty, Johnson and Smyth.”
The second period saw a slower, more gritty pace as both teams fought to stop the other from getting the all-important third goal of the game. Despite good chances from both sides, the score remained 2-0 until 15:52 of the period when after a four-on-two rush into the Sharks’ zone and flanked by Justin Williams, Kyle Clifford and Oscar Moller, Doughty had his pass deflected by Mark Vlasic. He regained control, drifted laterally and unleashed a wicked slap shot that beat Niemi for the 3-0 advantage. Noteworthy in the effort was the yeoman’s work by mighty mouse Moller, who planted his 5’10”, 186-pound frame directly in front of the net and partially screened Niemi. The second period ended with San Jose outshooting Los Angeles 23-15, yet down big on the scoreboard.
“We just weren’t good enough all game,” said Sharks center Joe Thornton. Defenseman Dan Boyle added, “It starts with the discipline. You’ve got to control your emotions.”
Early in the third period, the Kings capped the scoring with – you guessed it – Doughty figuring prominently once again. Kyle Clifford chased the puck along the boards, which trickled to the blue line and was then backhanded behind the Sharks’ net by Doughty. Clifford recovered the puck, tapped it to Brad Richardson, who then executed a perfect give-and-go back to Clifford who one-timed it into the open net for the commanding 4-0 lead.
The remainder of the third period was essentially a replay of the second, with San Jose upping the pressure in a desperate effort to get back into the contest. The Sharks continued to win the majority of the draws and fired eleven shots on net, yet could not light the lamp. In the end, despite a 34-23 shot differential, San Jose was unable to solve a determined Los Angeles defense and the strong goaltending of Jonathan Quick.
“I think we have to look at ourselves when we come to the rink tomorrow and ask if we gave enough tonight,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Kings coach Terry Murray said, “It was a very big win, coming into this building in Game two when we’re a little short, with key players out of the lineup. That requires a real competitive attitude by everyone that is playing. Guys have to really dig in and play hard for each other. I think that’s the competitive spirit that our team has shown many, many times over the last couple years here. They really play hard for each other.”
The Kings’ defense was the key to the game. Doughty ended the night four points, tying Paul Coffey’s franchise record set in the 1991-92 playoffs. Jack Johnson had a goal and an assist, earning the third star of the game behind Doughty and Quick. Commenting on losing home ice advantage and referencing last year’s first round series against the Colorado Avalanche, Sharks forward Ryan Clowe said, “”Obviously, we’ve been in this position before. And hey, we’re good on the road. We’re fine.”