SAN JOSE, Calif.- Sharks fans should throw away their teal brooms and Kings supporters can plan for at least one more road trip up north.
Drew Doughty scored twice and contributed a pair of assists as Los Angeles dominated San Jose 4-0 at HP Pavilion Saturday night.
“He’s a dominant player, I think he can take control of any shift that he wants to when he’s out there,” Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said. “That’s the kind of attitude he’s played with these last 20 games down the home stretch and then again here tonight.”
Jonathan Quick earned the shutout despite his team being outshot 34 to 23. He made every routine stop and squashed a small handful of rapid-fire assaults from the Sharks.
His was the sixth shutout in Kings playoff history. With the extended absence Los Angeles returned from last season, it was also the first since 2002 when Felix Potvin blanked the Colorado Avalanche. Quick joins Potvin, Rogie Vachon and Terry Sawchuk as one of four L.A. netminders to record a playoff shutout.
“(Quick) is probably going to have to be our best player and he has been so far,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
San Jose got outworked in almost every area of the game and were beaten virtually to a man in individual match-ups.
“You don’t have to be a real astute fan to see that they were a lot hungrier than we were and they were a lot more competitive than we were,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said.
“If we don’t have a bit of anger and we don’t have a bit of shame lingering around us tomorrow or tonight when we go home, I would be extremely disappointed,” he added.
Los Angeles got on the board with two early power-play goals and San Jose simply never recovered.
“You can’t fall behind 2-0 or 3-0 against them because they shut it down and their goaltender is obviously very good,” McLellan said.
Los Angeles certainly did shut it down. Murray praised the defensive effort of his forwards, each of which contributed in some way. However, he beamed at the play of his defense and goaltender.
“Those seven guys back there did a tremendous job … big penalty kills, blocking shots, just everybody dug in,” Murray said. ” Scuderi with his big stick, Mitchell, he’s got the same kind of stick, tremendous range and I thought discouraged a lot of shots.”
Doughty’s performance tied a record for most points in a playoff game by a Kings defenseman. He accomplished the feat last year as well against Vancouver when he tied Paul Coffey’s mark.
It was against Vancouver that the Kings last ruled the power play, scoring six straight times to open the 2010 first-round series. Los Angeles defenseman Willie Mitchell, who spearheaded the magnificent defensive effort Saturday, was a member of that Canucks team.
While this regular season had not been as kind to the Kings units–they ranked 26th overall in the NHL in power-play percentage–Mitchell hoped they could perform as they did tonight.
“It’s a clean slate. What you did in the regular season doesn’t mean anything this time of year,” Mitchell said. “It’s a new opportunity for those guys to go out and make a big difference. There’s no doubt teams that go on to win the ultimate prize have to have a good power play and a good penalty kill.”
Logan Couture’s line nearly opened the scoring again when Ryane Clowe set Couture up for a one-timer from the high slot. On the same possession, Dany Heatley was denied on the doorstep by Quick.
Quick got some help from Mitchell’s long, active stick.
“Mitchell got his stick on that. It’s huge,” Quick said.”If he doesn’t get a stick on that, they’re up 1-0. Then we go the other way and end up getting a power play going the other way and we get a couple power-play goals.”
San Jose had another pair of strong chances during a power play of their own with Joe Pavelski’s sharp wrister creating a scramble in front and Jason Demers’s picturesque slap-pass leaving the puck at the side of an open L.A. net momentarily.
When the Kings went to the power play, they gave L.A. fans flashbacks to their start in Vancouver last year in the first round.
Doughty’s big wind-up shifted the Sharks’ box to its left. He dished the biscuit to Jack Johnson at the left point who sent a twine-seeking missile through a Ryan Smyth screen to open the scoring.
“Me and Jack were trying to get it back going throughout the season there and it really just wasn’t clicking,” Doughty said. “But now we’re confident, we’re back to our old ways and me and Jack are having a ton of fun working together on the power play along with (Alec) Martinez.”
The man advantage came as a result of an offensive-zone slashing penalty against Ben Eager. Another undisciplined play, an elbow to Doughty off the faceoff, sent Clowe to the sin bin and San Jose back to the penalty kill.
“That put a lot of stress on our team, they obviously get the lead and they’re one of the top defensive teams for a reason,” McLellan said.
It was another hard, precise shot from the point–this time by Doughty from the right side–that gave Los Angeles a two-goal advantage.
“They’ve got powerful shots, heavy shots and it paid off here tonight for us,” Murray said.
The timing appeared perfect for the Kings to heat up their power play and get production from the back end.
“Ironically, the power play has been something that has been a concern in the last quarter of the season for us, and here it is, in a big game here tonight, and stepped up and really performed well,” Murray said.
Clowe took another penalty, this time for a cross-check and again against Doughty. San Jose avoided a Vancouver-esque drought on the P.K. by erasing the advantage after allowing two shots on net. They proceeded to kill off another minor shortly thereafter without any pucks reaching their net.
On a subsequent Sharks power play, San Jose again tested quick with a rapid shot-and-rebound chance where a Jason Demers mortar and a follow-up by Clowe were both met by the pads of Quick.
Los Angeles was a spotless five-for-five on the penalty kill. They had a top-to-bottom effort highlighted by some massive individual heroics. Matt Greene took on Devin Setoguchi in front of the net for about 20 seconds, battling hard inches from the paint the entire time. While they were engaged, he repositioned his body and stick to also shut down Joe Thornton’s effort to create a play with the puck from behind the net.
“When you break down the game, there’s all sorts of Xs and Os but ultimately it comes down to trying to win your one-on-one battles and trying to beat the guy across from you,” Scuderi said.
While peppering in some impressive saves, Quick did not need to be spectacular by and large thanks to solid defense from all six Kings rearguards.
“For the most part, I thought we were able to keep them to the outside. We didn’t allow them second opportunities,” Scuderi said. “Every time there was a rebound I felt we were on it first or we had stick or we had the man with good body position.”
Smyth drew a penalty on Niclas Wallin. Unlike their earlier, wasteful infractions, Wallin’s penalty saved a near-certain goal as Smyth had half the net open in his office on the border of the blue paint.
The Kings broke the Sharks late in the frame on another of Doughty’s signature plays. He wound up and walked the blue line to accumulate traffic in front, through which he fired a skittering wrist shot to beat Antti Niemi five hole.
Doughty’s effort was particularly important because the Kings were shorthanded entering the game. Their first-line center Anze Kopitar, who made the trip to San Jose to watch the game, has been out with a broken ankle since game No. 75 of the regular season. Their second-line pivot Jarret Stoll was serving a one-game suspension.
“Doughty has always shown that ability to make the play at the right time, to step up, to try to be assertive and get things turned around if necessary,” Murray said.
Ian White, whom Stoll concussed with the check that earned him a suspension, did not play. He was replaced by the rookie Justin Braun, whom McLellan highlighted as a rare bright spot on a dim night for San Jose.
Los Angeles got an insurance goal after Brad Richardson’s show-and-go move from behind the net allowed him to throw the puck in front. From there, Kyle Clifford tapped the puck in with ease to earn a 4-0 advantage.
Both the Richardson line and, in particular, the second line with Trevor Lewis standing in confidently for Stoll, banged hard and ground down the opposing defense.
“I love the way we cycled the puck, that was critical to our defensive part of the game to get pucks behind them and be strong on the cycle,” Murray said. ” That takes time off the clock, that helps us play with confidence, and it gets puck to the net in the right areas at the right time.”
Doughty earned the secondary assist on the play. Overall, Doughty reminded any doubters why he was nominated for the Norris Trophy last season at just 20 years of age.
“I was pumped for this game today, I was a little upset that I made that one mistake in game 1 and they capitalized on it. So, I wanted to make up for it,” Doughty said. ” I had the opportunities, too and luckily I capitalized.”
Doughty, whose longstanding friendship with Couture has recently been spotlighted in both California markets and all over North America, said he felt like he settled a small score with his buddy. Couture beat Doughty, as he whiffed on a big check, to score a go-ahead goal for San Jose in game 1.
“I think I got him a couple minuses and he was out on the PK a couple times that I scored. I guess we’re kind of even but he still beat me one-on-one so I’m still a little upset about that,” Doughty said.
For the Kings, they emerge with an enormous split in the first two games. They now have home-ice advantage with three of the potentially remaining five games to be played in Los Angeles.
The effort in the game one overtime loss and, particularly, the effort tonight may galvanize the sort of dangerous run the Kings have been apt to go on this season.
“We had to come out and pour it all in. We know there’s two days until the next game,” Murray said. “Guys held nothing back, they did the right stuff–hard along the boards, hard in front of the net, they really paid the price in this game to get the job done.”
Murray seemed as proud of his team as he has been at any point in his three years as their head coach.
“I think that’s the competitive spirit that our team has shown many, many times over the last couple of years,” Murray said. “They really care about each other, they play hard for each other, they dig in when they have to and, to me, that’s probably defined as gritty hockey club.”