After twenty minutes, the Sharks “beat LA” chants dried up. The SAP Center was not rocking. There were very few that could even entertain the idea that Jonathan Quick was going to beaten on Sunday. The Sharks beat LA on Sunday because they have been here before. Every year of failure. Every season of early exits. The Sharks beat LA tonight with a comeback victory.
“St. Louis Blues, LA Kings last year. The scores are irrelevant… That’s all you get is a win.”
While Thursday’s victory was sparked early in the game; the Los Angeles Kings started fast and earned a two goal advantage. They left the first period perfect, and Jonathan Quick looked unbeatable.
— Kenneth Laws (@Kenneth_LawsTHW) April 21, 2014
But then, it all came apart.
Sharks Fourth Line Ignites
Throughout Game 1, Mike Brown and Raffi Torres agitated and pressured. They masterfully danced around the line of being goons and being effective forecheckers. Heavy hits sparked the crowd and battered the Kings. Bounces that were going the Sharks way on Thursday night just were not falling for San Jose, however. But, it would be on the scoresheet that the fourth line bruisers would make their impact. Led by their center, Andrew Desjardins (2 assists), the fourth line would soon earn all three stars of the game.
17 goals. Mike Brown has scored 17 goals. No, not this season. For his entire career, he has only scored 17 goals. That’s ten years of not scoring goals. Who would’ve thought that his first postseason goal would come against a Jonathan Quick that seemed to have rediscovered his confidence! Then, it was the other Smash Bros. turn to hurt the Kings. Raffi Torres evened the game with another. Game on. Seven unanswered goals later, the San Jose Sharks had run the LA Kings out of the building.
The fourth line was so effective, that Darryl Sutter was avoiding them. Anze Kopitar’s line was pulled off whenever Todd McLellan put his bruisers out there. Mike Brown was modest in postgame, when asked about the effect his line was having on the series he answered “…anytime the fourth line contributes with goals it’s always a bonus… for us to put in a few here, it’s great for the team.”
Antti Niemi was on the wrong end of an unlucky first period. The Sharks couldn’t find the net, but the Kings beat Nemo twice. Down 2-0, the Finnish netminder needed to keep the deficit at two or risk allowing the best defensive team in the league a nearly insurmountable lead.
I have been heavily critical of Niemi in the last month. He hasn’t been sharp and soft goals have cost the Sharks games. The Sharks beat LA because when the Kings took their only lead of the series, Antti Niemi shut the door. Much credit is given to the forwards of Sunday’s victory, and rightfully so, but Niemi can’t be forgotten. Holding the Kings in the furious first period to only two goals required some guts and the Sharks goaltender proved he had them.
Sharks Beat LA With Transition Goals
Four of the Sharks goals came during transition plays. The Kings had once again lost composure after blowing their lead. The defense became unnerved and started to fall into the same chippy play that doomed them in game one. While Robyn Regehr was heavily victimized on Thursday, it was Matt Greene that suffered. On the ice for all four of the Sharks’ transition goals, Greene pinched in too hard on multiple occasions and allowed odd-man rushes for the Sharks.
The goals that sparked the third period had nothing to do with Jonathan Quick. Patrick Marleau scored on wonderful cross ice pass from Matt Nieto. An abysmal change that high school teams don’t make gave Joe Pavelski a three-on-none where he unleashed a howitzer past Quick. And finally, Logan Couture floated a two-on-one rush pass from Marleau past a demoralized Kings netminder.
Depth Kills Kings
Eleven Sharks had points in this game. ELEVEN. Contributions from all over. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton both made reference to depth in postgame interviews. The Sharks beat LA with their whole squad. Los Angeles simply got no reprieve from the pressure. Thornton reminded reporters that “Everybody has got to be a leader throughout this playoffs” and the fourth line is not exempt from this. Pavelski directly attributed the spark to Mike Brown and Raffi Torres “…the spark came from that fourth line… Brownie’s goal was great, Raf’s… that was awesome.” When asked whether we should stop calling them the fourth line, Pavelski laughed and said “Call them whatever you want, as long as they keep playing good.”
Hertl and Pavelski Go Home
At 8:11pm (Pacific Time), I tweeted that Hertl had moved back to the top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Joe Pavelski, in turn, moved right back to his third line center role. All of a sudden, the dream lineup that Todd McLellan envisioned at the beginning of the season was on the ice. At 8:12pm, Mike Brown scored the first goal for the Sharks. The Sharks beat LA as soon as McLellan reestablished his team’s balance. Four lines that can all score, the deadliest of offenses.
With so many things working for the Sharks and so many things going horribly wrong for the Los Angeles Kings, it is easy to believe the Sharks beat LA two more times. But Todd McLellan made sure to bring his team back down to Earth: “St. Louis Blues, LA Kings last year. The scores are irrelevant… That’s all you get is a win.”