In a game evoking wild west imagery, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings staged their own version of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Riding frantic shifts in momentum and the lingering aftereffects of the Jarret Stoll/Ian White incident, the teams staged a memorable battle in game three, firing eleven total goals into the net behind the beleaguered goaltenders. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the game will be remembered for an amazing comeback by the Sharks, climbing out of second period 4-0 hole by utterly dominating the remainder of the period, tying the game on a Joe Pavelski goal just before the break. In the end, it was Devon Setoguchi’s wrist shot from the slot off the Patrick Marleau cross-ice centering pass at 3:09 of overtime that capped the furious San Jose comeback, stunning Los Angeles, 6-5. With the win, the Sharks took the always-pivotal game three and now lead the series, 2-1.
Speaking of the 1881 battle between the Earps/Doc Holliday and the Clanton Gang, here’s the cheesiest-yet-coolest rendition of it ever:
The meltdown was swift and complete, although much of that had to do with the character shown by San Jose, who refused to quit despite being down big early in the game. It was like the cartoon snowball that rolls down the mountain and becomes gigantic. It couldn’t be stopped, and it just became bigger and bigger along the way. Todd McLellan observed as much after the game, saying: “You could feel it a little bit on the bench. The more we did it, the more we believed it could happen.”
The game could literally be split into two pieces, the contrasts were that stark.
The first 21 minutes of the game were utterly dominated by Los Angeles, and they capitalized early and often. At 2:26 of the first period and on the rush, Willie Mitchell shot the puck from a hard angle, off the glove of Antti Niemi and into the net. Just thirteen seconds later and after whiffing on the shot, Brad Richardson found Kyle Clifford in front, who did his best Charlie Simmer impression (see Simmer on the right – I miss that 70’s ‘stache) and backhanded it home, expanding the lead to 2-0. The crowd was going crazy, as every bounce seemed to be going the Kings way.
Late in the first period, the breaks continued in favor of Los Angeles. Dan Boyle gave the puck away at center ice, and Dustin Penner took the puck the other direction. As Marc-Edouard Vlasic pursued, Penner fed an open Michael Handzus who one-timed it past Niemi for the 3-0 advantage, which was the score when the horn sounded.
Early in the second, the momentum continued in favor of the Kings early, as Brad Richardson intercepted Ian White’s clearing attempt, closed in on Niemi, and snapped the puck into the net for the 4-0 lead. At that moment, television sets turned off throughout the Silicon Valley in favor of Dungeons & Dragons boards. The game was over.
And then, the curtain unveiled on Act II, which began shortly after the fourth Los Angeles goal.
Patrick Marleau started the San Jose scoring at 3:08 with a deflection off the Dan Boyle slap shot, breaking the shutout bid of Jonathan Quick. Less than three minutes later and on the power play, Ryan Clowe slid the puck diagonally through the crease and past Quick, and suddenly it was a game again at 4-2. At 13:32, Ian White found Logan Couture with a cross-ice pass and he one-timed it into the back of the net. Just like that, the Sharks were right back at the doorstep, down 4-3 with the wind at their backs.
A mere fifteen seconds later, Los Angeles seemingly snuffed out the San Jose rally. While the public address announcer was still calling the Couture goal, Jarret Stoll threw the puck from the boards right in front of the net and Ryan Smyth rammed it in, increasing the lead to 5-3. The crowd sighed in collective relief, as order seemed to be restored amidst the chaos.
Yet the relief was short-lived. After a fire drill effort on defense during intense pressure by the Sharks, Dan Boyle passed to a wide open Ryan Clowe who redirected the puck into the nearly open cage, closing the gap to 5-4. Finally, at 19:29 of the second, White collected his second assist by finding Pavelski right in front, who fought off the trailing Drew Doughty and chipped it just under the crossbar, tying the game at 5-5. Upon hearing updates of the score, Dungeons & Dragons boards were quickly upturned in frantic efforts to turn the game back on.
The third period saw restoration of responsible defense by both clubs, most notably the Kings, and after a fairly calm frame in which only fourteen shots were tallied, the game headed to overtime. Matt Greene, discussing the defensive redemption, said: “The third period, I think we felt good. We felt real good there in the third period. We came back and we had a nice period after that. That was a positive.”
Positive vibes ended for the Kings at 3:09 of the overtime period. Patrick Marleau took the Niklas Wallin entry pass, shook off the Hanzus pursuit, raced down the boards and found Devon Setoguchi, who did his best Joe Pavelski imitation and wristed the puck past Quick and into the net. With that, the remarkable turnaround was complete and the game was shockingly over.
“We take a step closer, that’s the biggest thing,” said Sharks center Joe Pavelski. “There is a lot of character in this room and we know how to play.” Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick was far more succinct: “It’s one game. The goals don’t carry over to the next game. You move on.”
The comeback was just one of a handful of four-goal deficits overcome in NHL playoff history. The greatest comeback, of course, was the Miracle on Manchester, when the Kings overcame a five goal lead by the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of game three of their first round series to win in overtime, 6-5. This game will be given a name, as well, eventually. I think you know what gets my vote.