By Mary Walsh
SANTA CLARA– The San Jose Sharks were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in the NHL’s 2015 Stadium Series game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. The Sharks’ Joe Pavelski summarized his team’s disappointment over the loss: “You want to push towards that second season and right now we’re not there. There’s nothing given to us and we gotta go earn it.”
While the game was very important for the standings points, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was not disappointed with his team:
We were disappointed in the outcome. I’m not disappointed in the effort and what our group put into the game. We would have preferred to win. It was a hard-fought game by two good teams that played a pretty even match. So the outcome is very disappointing, but everything else we’re proud of. I think our city and Northern California has to be extremely proud. You take Mr. Gund 25 years ago had a vision of bringing a team here, and brought it here, and a quarter century later we’re playing an outdoor game with 72,000 people in a brand-new football stadium. Who would have ever thought that could happen?
“We’re still not even close to being secure in a playoff spot, we have a lot of work left to do.” That was Drew Doughty after the game, but it would have been a true statement from a player on either team in Saturday night’s game. This is what made the game so important to both teams– the race for a playoff spot in the west will be a dog fight for the rest of the season. Calgary and Vancouver are crowding the top of the Pacific Division behind the Ducks. The wild card slots are over subscribed with Winnipeg and now Minnesota pressing. No contending team is secure or is likely to be until the last buzzer goes.
If the Los Angeles Kings wanted to ruin the Sharks’ big party in Santa Clara, they made a good start of it. Just 2:46 into the first period, a Jake Muzzin shot from the blue line went by Niemi on the short side. It was tipped by Kyle Clifford and it was deflating for the 709,000 plus stadium crowd.
Near the seven minute mark, the Kings drew a penalty from Brenden Dillon for holding. The call was delayed and the Kings took advantage of the extra time to make the Sharks look harried. It took the Sharks several seconds to finally touch the puck and get a whistle. The Sharks’ had a tv break to regain their composure and their penalty kill came out looking more settled. They evicted the Kings from the zone several times before the power play ended.
The Sharks had less success at five on five and by 13:30 of the first, the Sharks were trapped in their own end and counting on Niemi and luck to keep the puck out of their net. The shot clock read 9-3 Los Angeles.
Near the sixteen minute mark, John Scott corralled the puck and carried it through the neutral zone where he, Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson made things interesting for Jonathan Quick. It was the crowd’s first reason to cheer in a while.
They had another chance with just over a minute left. the sharks had been creeping back on the shot clock when, right off an offensive zone draw, Brent Burns took the puck, skated a little and shot it from the half-boards to tie the game. The assist went to Tommy Wingels.
By the end of the first, the Kings were still leading in shots but just barely. The Sharks had pushed all the way back to 12-10, holding the Kings to just three shots in the last seven minutes of the period.
The Sharks started the second period where they left off in the first. They caught and passed the Kings in shots, though both teams were hanging back a little, keeping extra bodies by the blue lines to compensate for some pretty rough ice. Even from the press booth (way up high) you could see how not smooth the zamboni left the ice during intermission. There were no puddles but the puck’s trajectory vaguely resembled that of a bumble bee.
At 7:24, Robyn Regehr went to the box for hooking, giving the Sharks their first power play of the night. The Kings could not get the puck out for more than a minute, but aside from an early sequence featuring exceptional saves by Quick, the power play generated nothing concrete.
The Kings had another power play at 13:06 of the second, when Matt Irwin went to the box for hooking Kyle Clifford in front of the San Jose net. The kings held the zone for over a minute too, and one shot by Jamie McBain from the blue line looked pretty dangerous but beyond that the Sharks handled the Kings’ power play well.
The Sharks had their second chance on the power play soon after, when Jake Muzzin went to the box for delay of game after sending the puck over the glass. This Sharks power play was less sharp. The Kings sent them out, chasing the puck into their own zone, then Quick’s net came off its moorings and the power play minutes were eaten up fruitlessly. A few too many passes were attempted in hostile conditions. The only things that seemed to get through were some hard blasts from the slot.
By the end of the period, the Sharks were ahead in shots 25-18 but the game was still tied at one.
The Kings came out strong in the third, with an early shot going through Niemi but just wide. That may have given the Sharks a scare because they did push the game the other way in the minutes after that. But it was the Kings who scored next.
Marion Gaborik used a hard shot from the slot to beat Niemi. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was trying to come across to stop him but at least two Sharks were caught flat-footed and watched Gaborik go by. Jeff Carter got an assist on the goal.
At the midpoint of the third, Joe Thornton drew a tripping penalty from Dustin Brown. The teams were tied at 26 shots each, and neither team had scored on the power play. The Sharks’ third power play was their least effective of the game. They tried too many passes and took too few shots.
The Sharks were unable to tie the game up again and the final score was 2-1 Kings. The Sharks won 33 faceoffs to the Kings’ 31. The Sharks had three power plays to the Kings two, both teams had perfect penalty kills. The hits were 45-49 Sharks, the shots blocked 18-14 Kings. The biggest imbalance in the game was in giveaways (18-7 Sharks) and takeaways (13-5 Sharks), though those stats really should balance each other out. Perhaps not, in a game that requires more simplification than anything else.
The Sharks’ lines looked a little different on Saturday, with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau reunited on a line, with Melker Karlsson as the third member. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels formed the other half of the top six. Tomas Hertl, James Sheppard and Matt Nieto formed the third line, and John Scott, Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins forming the fourth line.
Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in hits with 11, while six Sharks had four each. Brent Burns led the team in shots with six. Antti Niemi made 27 saves on 29 shots faced.
Drew Doughty led the Kings in shots, Trevor Lewis led the team in hits with six. Jonathan Quick made 31 saves on 32 shots for the win.
The Sharks next play on Thursday at SAP Center against the Detroit Red Wings.