By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA —After poor performance against New Jersey Devils on Monday when they gave up five goals in a losing effort, San Jose Sharks tightened their defense and it paid off, big time. Playing the division rival Los Angeles Kings on the special Metallica night, Sharks came away with 4-2 victory and a solid performance on both sides of the ice.
Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored the key goals for the Sharks while Antti Niemi made 23 saves earning his 19th victory of the season.
It was the night when Sharks hosted Metallica rock band in the house, making them special guests and the feature for the night. It all started with the lead singer James Hatfield announcing the starting lineup, which electrified the home crowd and the players. Logan Couture said in his post game comments that it was one of the best and most memorable experiences of his career to have them make that introduction.
And perhaps this was the jolt the Sharks needed to help them play hard and focused for 60 minutes long – something they couldn’t do in the past few games, and especially at home.
The matchup was physical right from the very start, with Sharks trying to match the usual toughness of the Kings. It wasn’t until the half way of the first period when first scoring chances began to appear. This is also when the first goal in the game happened. Picking up some speed along the board, Logan Couture had the puck and he blew past Kings defense, shooting the puck into the top corner from sharp angle. There was not much Jonathan Quick could do to save it – it seemed like Couture was as fast as a lighting on that play.
Sharks continued to hold the advantage in play, getting three 2-on-1 chances and dictating the pace of the game, but it was the Kings who scored next, half way through the second period. Dustin Brown scored a wrap-around goal on Antti Niemi, who found himself out of position and on his knees in the crease trying to make a save on Brown moments earlier.
But Sharks did not panic and regained their lead towards the end of the second period. This time it happened on a power play goal – with Patrick Marleau redirecting Logan Couture’s shot from above the face-off circle.
Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks two-goal lead later in the third period when he scored off the rebound from Patrick Marleau’s shot when Sharks were on a power play again. It was Pavelski’s 24th goal of the season, and it turned out to be the Sharks’ goal number 5000 in the history of franchise (regular season only).
From then on, Sharks went into all-defence mode, continuing the physical play and staying close to the puck. That did not give the Kings the space they needed to create offensively on even strength, but the Kings did get a lengthy play with extra skaters out as game was winding down.
LA came in closer, scoring a goal with 22 seconds left in the game and a goaltender pulled out for an extra skater (having that advantage for almost three minutes, including 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play), but that wasn’t enough and Sharks held on to victory. Logan Couture was credited with the fourth goal in the game when he had the puck and was taken down by the Kings’ player as he was about to put it into an empty net.
“The win, the score – everything we’re happy with,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “But what is the most satisfying is the competitiveness we showed and came up with. We shouldn’t have to talk about it. But now that it was there thorough the 20 players, it shouldn’t go unrecognized. We have to capture that, and prepare to bring it to the rink every night after the [All-star game] break, because it’s shaping up to be a very tight Conference.”
Sharks are now on a break until Thursday, January 29, when they take on Anaheim Ducks at home.