Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
Game 1 of the Kings-Sharks series is in the books, and in a playoff season that has been dominated by goaltending, the contest was refreshingly offensive in nature. It was a game in which the momentum swung back and forth repeatedly between the two teams, but in the end it was the Sharks who came out on top when Joe Pavelski scored a gorgeous top shelf goal with less than six minutes left in overtime.
So which players were the stars of the game for each of the two teams? Here’s my take:
Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks
This distinction could have been given to more than one of the Sharks, including Pavelski for his game winning goal, Logan Couture for his redeeming goal (after committing a turnover that led to the first Kings goal, Couture scored a beauty of a goal on the rush) or even Dany Heatley, who got the team started with a goal 28 seconds into the game. The fact of the matter is that Clowe was Mr. Everything for the Sharks, and he deserves the nod as San Jose’s star of the game.
It was Clowe’s shot that set up the juicy rebound that Heatley netted in the first period, and he also picked up the primary assist on Couture’s goal on the rush in the second. To top off his day on the scoresheet, Clowe had the secondary assist on Pavelski’s game winner, giving him three hard earned points and providing the team a much needed boost.
Outside of his scoring, Clowe also had three shots, five hits, and two takeaways. Those five hits may seem like a lot, but they still don’t capture how well he played physically in this game. He disrupted the Kings’ offense quite a bit with his play, and that’s part of what Clowe brings to the table when he hits the ice. He plays both ways, and that was on full display on Thursday night.
Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
Williams wasn’t even a for-sure starter for Thursday’s game as he recovered from an injury, but he was in the lineup and producing at a high level in this one. He scored one of LA’s goals and assisted on the other one, and he took a total of six shots on goal as he paced the Kings’ offense.
What makes this performance even more remarkable was the amount of punishment that Williams was taking throughout the game. He took several checks that probably didn’t feel too pleasant on the shoulder that he dislocated late in the regular season, but he persevered and kept getting to the dirty areas and scored a goal in that fashion. It was a great game for Williams, and the Kings will need more of that if they are going to stay around in this series.