(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Pearl Allison Lo
LOS ANGELES–It was fitting that the game was won on special teams as Los Angeles took second place from the San Jose Sharks in a 3-1 win Saturday.
Coming into the game, the Sharks had the league-best power play, and both teams had recent hot streaks, the Kings on the power play and San Jose on the penalty kill.
However, Coach Todd McLellan added, “There is much more to it than that. A lot of the grinding part, and the hard part of the game, we were beat in those areas as well. They were better on the walls, they were better defending, taking time and space away. Their forecheck was better.”
McLellan later responded “…tonight was an opportunity for both teams to play under similar circumstances. I thought they were better than us, so that is a little bit disappointing. Both teams coming off the Christmas break and overtime losses.
The Sharks struck first. In Los Angeles’s zone, the Kings’ Justin Williams’ pass hit San Jose’s Joe Thornton, who quickly recovered the puck and passed to Joe Pavelski. Pavelski then shot with just one defender between him and goalie Jonathan Quick, deflecting off Quick into the net to make it 1-0, 2:39 into the game.
Los Angeles’s Tyler Toffoli had two chances to score and did not miss after his initial shot went off the boards to Jamie McBain. McBain gave the puck another trip across the front of the net as Toffoli tied the game at 14:04. Trevor Lewis had the second assist.
The Kings had 8-3 giveaways as they outhit (18-4) and outshot (12-6) San Jose, missing eight of the shots.
Special team opportunities dominated the second and the third. Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty said, “…we did a good job of staying out of the box the first couple of periods and then we killed off some big [power plays] in the third, so that was huge.” Pavelski noted, “It’s such a fine line sometimes with the power play…When we were a little aggressive it was probably not the right time.”
The Sharks’ penalty kill won over the Kings’ power play in the first round at 3:07.
Los Angeles’s power play won in the second round at 9:25. Marian Gaborik’s shot hit goalie Antti Niemi and Anze Kopitar put in the game winner, 12 seconds before the man advantage expired. Jeff Carter got the second assist. The last time the Sharks gave up a power play goal was seven games ago.
San Jose could not get a goal during the third round, which starting at 18:51, spanned two periods.
The Sharks’ Scott Hannan committed two penalties in the third and Jake Muzzin made it 3-1 off the first at 3:18. It was another second chance goal as Niemi saved Muzzin’s first shot. Doughty and Kopitar helped out.
San Jose had a second power play opportunity at 16:10, but went scoreless again. They had previously had power plays in five of their last seven games.
Game notes: The Sharks’ points streak ended at six. The Kings kept their season home loss streak at one and with at least one power play goal at home, are now 10-0-1. The recently called up Micheal Haley for San Jose played, instead of the suspended John Scott. The Sharks now head home to face the Canucks Tuesday at 7pm, before playing the Ducks on New Year’s Eve.