By Mary Walsh
We don’t like the way things ended last year, and we want to try and set things right tonight. -Patrick Marleau, to CSNCA during warmups
It looked like the Sharks were ready to do just that when Logan Couture found Marc-Edouard Vlasic pinching in deep, after getting a quick look at the play. Vlasic’s goal gave the Sharks a lead just 13 seconds into the game. The Sharks looked poised to play a slippery, unpredictable game. In the end, the Kings won in an entirely predictable fashion for them: by taking away the Sharks’ time and space with relentless physical play. After trailing by a goal three times, the Kings won 4-3 in overtime.
At 2:32 of the period, a miscalculation by Matt Irwin in the Sharks’ zone ended with a failed breakout. Justin Williams took advantage and sent the puck back up to Drew Doughty, who tied the game with a snap shot.
The game was Martin Havlat’s first back with the team after a lengthy recovery from off-season surgery. He started on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. That line produced the Sharks’ second goal. As the Kings were exiting their zone, Pavelski and Wingels converged between Kings, stole the puck, and a quick back and forth between them ended with a patient shot from Pavelski to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Wingels and Havlat had a 2 on 1 chance on their next shift. The line looked very much in sync.
The Sharks started the second period with several good chances from the Pavelski and Desjardins lines, but on the Kings’ first good shift of the period, the Kings took the puck from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart with a hard hit. The home team took over and Jarret Stoll scored off a deflected shot from Slava Voynov.
Antti Niemi added a little surprise move when he came out above the faceoff circle to prevent a dangerous breakaway by the Kings’ Stoll. Near the Kings’ blue line, James Sheppard tried a pass to the slot, but Stoll blocked it and went other way. He had a step on everyone. Niemi’s pass moved the puck to safety, though it bounced meekly back into the Kings’ zone. That pass was more successful than half the Sharks’ passes in the second. Good pressure from Los Angeles rushed the Sharks skaters and led to several giveaways.
Neither team allowed many good second chances, though the Sharks’ fourth line had a few in the middle period. A lot of physical play was the key, and Mike Brown certainly helped there when he got near the net.
A too many men penalty with just over six minutes left punctuated a lack of poise from the Sharks. That penalty kill seemed to help the Sharks briefly regain their focus.
The Sharks caught a break in the form of a goalie interference call against Kyle Clifford at 17:22 of the second period. After some rapid-fire puck movement from the Sharks’ power play, Logan Couture gave San Jose the lead.
The fourth line followed up with a very good shot from Desjardins that just trickled wide of the Kings’ net. Play went the other way, and the Kings answered with a great steal off Justin Braun by Dustin Brown just ahead of the goal line. The Sharks collapsed to the slot before he could get a shot off.
The Kings got their own goalie interference power play not long in to the third period. The Sharks had some close calls and had to make several very quick adjustments to protect their lead while Tommy Wingels was in the box for falling over Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
By the middle of the third, the Kings looked like the fresher team, though they had played the night before. The Sharks were scrambling and were called again for too many men on the ice. A beautiful play by Anze Kopitar was too much for San Jose’s penalty kill, and Justin Williams tied the game again.
Momentum shifted when Kings forward Dan Carcillo hit Logan Couture from behind and went to the penalty box for boarding. The ensuing power play for San Jose was fiercely defended by the Kings. There would be no extended passing plays now. The Sharks adjusted, coming up with some fast plays and faster shots, but still didn’t score.
The Sharks stretched out the last seven seconds of the period by icing the puck again and again. The clock ran out and the teams went to overtime.
Less than a minute into overtime, the Sharks went back on the penalty kill. The Kings had a relentless shift in the offensive zone, which ended when Justin Braun hooked LA’s Jeff Carter, possibly preventing a shot puck but taking the penalty. Neither team looked especially fresh during the four on three power play, but the Kings had plenty of room to work with. With 22 seconds left in the four on three power play, Anze Kopitar slapped the puck in from the blue line to give the Kings the win.
Talking about what he needed to do in his first game back, Havlat mentioned a couple of things that the whole team might have done to improve the outcome Wednesday night:
I just have to keep it simple, not try to do too much… I’m just trying to focus on the little things and not think too much. -Martin Havlat to CSNCA during first intermission
The Sharks next play on Saturday, back home at SAP Center in San Jose.