Sharks Beat LA 4-1

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Friday afternoon at the SAP Center. Sharks goals came from Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Noah Gregor and Logan Couture. Martin Jones made 33 saves for the win. The lone Kings goal came from Kyle Clifford and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves in the game. Friday’s win came after an ugly 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

The Sharks’ ability to rebound from losses has improved recently.

After the game, Sharks goaltender Martin Jones said: “Based on our record, I’d say yes. You know, we’ve got a lot of veteran guys in here, it’s nothing new. You go through it every year, tough stretches. It’s pretty important to get it turned around as quickly as you can, not let it spiral.”

One of the Sharks goals was a career-first.

Joe Thornton talked about Noah Gregor scoring his first NHL goal: “It changes your mindset when you get that first one. Confidence is such a big part of sports and you could see after he scored that, confidence just grew and hopefully it can grow from there.”

“It felt was awesome,” said Gregor. “It took, I think this is game 11? It took a bit but it was awesome to see the puck go in the net for the first time.” Of what the coaches have asked from him over this season, he said: “Just try to stay consistent in my game. Bring that speed. I think the speed is my biggest attribute, just try to bring that every single night. Also, my defensive game, always trying to improve it, be a little harder on pucks and plays a little bit quicker.”

The first goal came shortly after a Sharks power play, at 7:26 of the first period. Joe Thornton wrested control of the puck by the Kings net, carried it out to center and then found Marcus Sorensen on the wing. Sorensen convinced everyone that he was about to shoot, drawing defensive attention to him, and making Jonathan Quick come out to stop the shot. Instead, he sent a pass across the ice to Patrick Marleau, who was skating toward an open net. It was Marleau’s sixth of the season. Assists went to Sorensen and Thornton.

The second goal came from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 13:14 during a delayed penalty. With two skaters lined up in front of Quick, Vlasic shot it in the short side, sneaking over Quick’s pad and through a narrow gap by the post. Assists went to Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier.

The Kings out-shot the Sharks 8-4 in the first period.

The Sharks resumed their scoring ways at 2:58 of the second period. Noah Gregor broke away through the neutral zone. He passed two Kings before catching a pass from Brenden Dillon and shooting on the fly. It was Gregor’s first NHL goal, in his 10th NHL game. Assists went to Dillon and Martin Jones.

The second goal of the second period came from Logan Couture at 14:42. Erik Karlsson sent a shot right down the slot. First it hit Barclay Goodrow’s stick, then Logan Couture’s right on the edge of the paint. Goodrow and Karlsson got the assists.

The Kings out-shot the Sharks 13-9 in the second period.

At 12:54 of the third, Antti Suomela collided with Kurtis MacDermid and had to leave the game. MacDermid was given a match penalty but after an official review that was downgraded to a minor interference penalty.

The Kings broke Martin Jones’ shutout bid with a couple of minutes left in the game. Matt Luff found Kyle Clifford in the slot with a pass from the boards. Clifford sent it in without hesitation and it went right by Jones.

The Kings out-shot the Sharks 11-8 in the third period. the Kings won 54% of the face-offs in the game.

The Sharks next play on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona against the Coyotes at 5:00 PM PT.

Sharks Fall to Kings 3-2 in OT; Kovalchuk Scores 2 Goals

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks lost 3-2 in overtime to the visiting Los Angeles Kings Saturday. Ilya Kovalchuk, just returned from a 10-game absence, scored twice for Los Angeles, including the overtime game-winner. Alex Iafallo also scored for the Kings, while goaltender Jonathan Quick made 29 saves in the win. For the Sharks, goals came from Lukas Radil and Joe Pavelski, and goaltender Martin Jones made 28 saves in the loss.

The Sharks’ special teams were both defeated by the Kings, though each team only had one power play in the game. The faceoffs were fairly even through the game at 51% to 49% for the Sharks. It is worth noting that the Kings blocked 29 shots to the Sharks’ 11.

The first goal for Los Angeles came on a power play at 4:28 of the first from Ilya Kovalchuk. Timo Meier was in the box for hooking Jake Muzzin when Brendan Leipsic carried the puck behind the Sharks net to send it back up to Alex Iafallo at the point. His pass found Jake Muzzin in the slot, but he didn’t have a clear shot. So he passed it to Kovalchuk at the bottom of the faceoff circle, and his shot beat Jones on the short side. It was Kovalchuk’s sixth of the season, with assists going to Muzzin and Iafallo.

The Kings led the Sharks in shots in the first period, 15-8.

At 8:09 of the second period, Oscar Fantenberg had a goal taken away for goaltender interference by Dustin Brown. Brown was in the blue paint, behind the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon. He could have argued that Dillon kept him in the paint, crowding Jones, but he got into that paint on his own.

The Sharks had a power play opportunity near the end of the second period, but did not score. The Los Angeles penalty kill did an excellent job of controlling the puck and play in general.

The Sharks did outshoot the Kings during the second period, 13-6, but still trailed 1-0 to Los Angeles.

The Kings started the third period mostly playing keep away from the Sharks, to good effect. For good measure, they scored a second goal at 5:15. Dustin Brown carried the puck below the goal line, then sent it to Iafallo for a perfect shot over Martin Jones. It was Iafallo’s eighth of the season, with assists to Brown and Nate Thompson.

The Sharks finally got one by Jonathan Quick at 10:18 of the third period. Lukas Radil, skating across the goal mouth, deflected Timo Meier’s shot from the boards. The puck went over Quick’s shoulder and off the crossbar for Radil’s third goal of the season. Assists went to Meier and Erik Karlsson.

San Jose left the tying goal until the final minute. With the Sharks net empty, Erik Karlsson passed the puck to Brent Burns, waiting just below the blue line. He sent the puck to the net, where Joe Pavelski was waiting to deflect it in. It was Pavelski’s 23rd goal of the season, with assists to Burns and Karlsson.

The overtime period lasted 2:29, at which point Kovalchuck put the puck behind Jones to end the game.

Erik Karlsson could possibly hear from the Department of Player Safety regarding a hit he made on Austin Wagner during the second period. Wagner did not return to the game after that hit.

That question will be answered before the Sharks next play, on Sunday at 5:00 PM PT, when they will host the Arizona Coyotes.

Merry Little Shutout: Sharks Beat Kings 2-0, Jones Picks Up 100th NHL Win

Photo credit: @PR_NHL

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks shutout the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 at SAP Center Saturday night. It was Martin Jones’ 100th NHL win and the first time the Sharks shutout the Kings in San Jose in over a decade. Sharks goals were scored by Marcus Sorensen and Joe Pavelski. Jones made 28 saves for the win, while Jonathan Quick made 31 saves in a losing effort for the Kings. Pavelski’s power play goal extended the Sharks’ power play success to an eight-game streak.

After the game, Sharks assistant coach Rob Zettler said:

I thought that was one of our best games of the year so far, against a division team, obviously and able to gain two points on those guys. Defensively we’ve been good all year, we’ve been starting to put the puck in the back of the net the last few games, last couple of weeks so it’s a good feeling.

Over those last couple of weeks, the Sharks have had to lean on their top lines for scoring. With Logan Couture injured, the team needs even more from the bottom six than before. That was the difference Saturday, said Zettler:

Tonight specifically I thought we got some quality minutes from our fourth line: Ward, Boedker, Sorensen, obviously scored the goal. I thought that was a major difference, being able to put those guys out in key times, key moments, and keep our big guys’ minutes down a little bit.

The game started with a strange sequence of penalties. First, Justin Braun was called for tripping Marian Gaborik, and it was a questionable call at best. 42 seconds into the Kings power play, Oscar Fantenberg was called for delay of game by concealing the puck. Depending on your bias, he either fell or threw himself down to the ice, momentarily concealing the puck. The puck was visible and moving almost immediately, so if it was an attempt to freeze the puck it was not a successful one.

Apart from penalties, it was a very rough-and-tumble game. Brenden Dillon and Timo Meier stood out, but it was a skirmish-laden event for almost everyone on the ice.

“It was fun to be on the bench, the physical part was fun. You know, Timo and Dillon and Burnsie’s hit against good players, really fun to be a part of,” said Zettler after the game. “You could feel the energy, not only in the building but you could feel it on the bench.”

The second period started with more penalties. First, Jonny Brodzinski hit Timo Meier, who responded by holding on and being dragged away from the boards. Brodzinski then threw Meier to the ice and got four minutes for roughing. Meier got two minutes for holding. During the ensuing four-on-four, the Kings were called for too many men on the ice, giving the Sharks about a minute of four-on-three action. With three penalty killers and then with four, the Kings killed off all of that.

One second past the midpoint of the game, Sorensen put the Sharks on the board. Key to his goal was that Quick was too far out of his net as the Sharks entered the zone. Sorensen changed direction abruptly right in front of Quick and was able to put the puck in with a backhand. Assists went to Mikkel Boedker and Dylan DeMelo.

The second goal came in the third period, on the Sharks’ fifth power play of the night. Tomas Hertl was in moving in front of the net, with Pavelski a little ways up in the slot. Burns took the shot from the blue line and Pavelski redirected it in. Burns took that shot right off a faceoff win by Pavelski, just six seconds into the power play.

The Sharks return to action Thursday when they host the Calgary Flames at 7:30 PM PT.

Los Angeles Kings Win Stanley Cup Again

By Mary Walsh

The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons. The game winner was scored in double overtime by the Kings’ fourth line. Alec Martinez actually scored it, but he gave his linemates credit:

I just saw there was a loose puck in my own end, I just tried to get it in a forward’s hands. And I think Toffoli had a great shot, far pad, and fortunately the rebound came to me and I was able to put it in. It was a great play by them, I was just the benefactor.

It was Martinez’ second overtime game winner in these playoffs. The first was in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. This time, it was 15 minutes into a second overtime period, to win the Stanley Cup. He talked about the team’s mindset after they fell behind at the end of the second period on a short-handed goal by Brian Boyle:

I mean, the New York Rangers are a hell of a hockey club and we knew that this was going to be a tough series. There’s a lot of guys who’ve been around, a couple years ago, we know the fourth one’s definitely the hardest one to get, So that’s what we were talking about in the locker room, we just had to dig deep and just keep grinding away. We believed we were going to win this game.

The Conn Smythe trophy was awarded to Justin Williams. To many, Williams was flying under the radar when these playoffs started. As the leading scorer in the Final and a now three-time Stanley Cup winner, it is hard to believe he was very far under the radar. In any case, he is on everyone’s screen now.

The Kings scored before the Rangers even had a shot on goal. That would not be very unusual except that it wasn’t a goal in the first two minutes. Over six minutes had gone by. The goal came after a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net, after several tries. The successful shot was taken by Justin Williams. Assists went to Dwight King and Jarret Stoll.

Martin St. Louis took the Rangers’ first shot of the game, just shy of eight minutes in. For his trouble, Dustin Brown hauled St. Louis down and gave the Rangers a power play. The Rangers started pretty strong and got a few shots in, but the power play fizzled in the last 30 seconds or so, with the Kings getting a step on them before they could get set up.

It took the Rangers well over 20 minutes to tie the game. The goal came on a power play earned by Mats Zuccarello, who took a stick to the face from Dwight King. It started out badly, with a misfired pass from McDonagh to Richards, and then another pass to the other team, this time from Martin St. Louis. After almost a minute wasted, the Rangers were finally set up, with Brad Richards at the point.

One of the knocks on Richards has been that he overstays on the power play. This time was one of those extended stays, a minute and 29 seconds had elapsed and he had started it. Of course, no one else had gone off either so perhaps the criticisms are unfairly specific.

Ryan McDonagh shot a puck in from the wall, and it went neatly to Kris Kreider’s on the far side of the blue paint. It went by Quick and Kings defenseman Greene and landed right on Chris Kreider’s stick. Kreider got the goal, McDonagh the primary assist and the secondary assist went to Brad Richards.

Before the Rangers were done, they took the lead to end the second period. They set themselves up by taking a penalty and playing short handed. Dominic Moore got called for a subtle stick infraction. The Kings had a good chance early in that power play but the Rangers kept them to the outside and only allowed one shot on goal.

In the final three seconds of the penalty, Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin went the other way when Slava Voynov could not hold the puck in. After Hagelin corralled the puck and kept it away from Voynov near the Kings’ blue line, he passed it in Boyle’s direction. Boyle had to hustle and reach for it but he got it before Drew Doughty could. Boyle skated around Doughty in the slot and shot from a wide angle, skating left and shooting at the top right corner. Quick slid just a little too far to the right.

The Rangers started the third period pretty well but nearing the midpoint, the Kings had the Rangers pinned in their zone and scrambling. Lundqvist made some desperate saves but a tripping call on Zuccarello put the Kings on the power play. The call could have gone either way, as Zuccarello was chasing the puck to the blue line and Jake Muzzin did nothing to avoid having his leg run into. Logically, he should have, if he had any intention of chasing the puck the other way instead of letting it go right by him. So that call was mysterious.

The Kings only needed 17 seconds of power play time to tie the game. Henrik Lundqvist had stopped the shot but it was sitting just between his legs. Marian Gaborik was right in front of him, having squeezed in front of Anton Stralman. With a quick poke he shot the puck under Lundqvist. The shot had plenty of momentum in case of snow piles.

The Kings had consistently led on the shot clock, almost doubling the Rangers in total shots. In the third, however, the Kings were shooting the Rangers to pieces. The period totals were 12-3 for Los Angeles. The Kings finished with a very dangerous play. Anze Kopitar picked up the puck near the circle at the Rangers’ end, carried the puck into the corner and back out, despite being harassed by Ryan McDonagh. He held it long enough to find the late-arriving Jake Muzzin with a perfect backhand pass for a final shot through traffic. The shot went wide but it was a strong finish from the Kings.

Near the four minute mark of the first overtime, the Rangers drew a power play when Voynov went to the box for hooking. The Rangers, led by an impressive forecheck from Brad Richards, made a good start to the power play but it lost some steam when Ryan McDonagh’s shot beamed its way through some traffic only to hit the post.

The middle minutes of the period consisted of grueling up and down play, with the Kings continuing to outshoot the Rangers. With about six minutes left, Tanner Pearson had two tries at Lundqvist, a shot and then a wrap-around but Lundqvist got across to stop both.

A couple of minutes later, the Kings pinned the Rangers in their zone again. For the first time, the Rangers looked weary, losing battles on the boards and unable to get the puck out. Finally, Dominic Moore did get it out with a careful play off the boards. It was still an icing but his team needed the air.

The Kings were leading the period in shots 13-6.

Jonathan Quick showed uncanny tenacity in the last 90 seconds of the period, when the Rangers overwhelmed the Kings and peppered him with a couple of shots before crashing the net en masse. The referee took his time with the whistle but Quick did find the puck. Two more chances, one for each team ended the first OT. Chris Kreider had a breakaway stopped by Quick, and Jeff Carter had a chance thwarted by Rangers defenders.

It took the Kings almost 15 minutes of the second overtime to finish off the Rangers. They had to kill a penalty 5:43 in when Kyle Clifford went to the box for boarding. After some difficulty getting the puck away from his own net, Alec Martinez, Clifford and Toffoli went the other way in a three on two against Kevin Klein & John Moore. Martinez sent the puck across the neutral zone to Toffoli, who carried it in and took a shot from the half wall. Brian Boyle tried to get back to help but he was too late.  Lundqvist kicked the puck out right to Martinez who did not miss the open net.

It was a disappointing finish for Lundqvist after making 49 saves through almost five periods.

For all the talk of puck luck in this series, it is hard to ignore what looks like a special relationship between the Kings and Friday the 13th. The Kings also played a playoff game on Friday the 13th in 2012. That day, they beat the Vancouver Canucks. That was just a first round game, the second in the series. What are the odds they would win twice on Friday the 13th, and win the Cup both seasons?

Stanley Cup Final: New York Rangers Hang On to Win Game 4

By Mary Walsh

The New York Rangers saved themselves from a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings with a little luck and a lot of persistence. As usual, the Rangers took the early lead, but finally they were able to hold on to it for a 2-1 win. The third period was more harrowing than any we have seen so far in this series, with the Rangers managing only one shot on goal to the Comeback Kings’ 15. After the game, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was asked about that third period:

It was a battle, the whole game. When they turn it up, you need to rely on your teammates and some luck. We’ve been talking about it all series: to beat this team, you need some sort of puck luck and we definitely had it tonight.

The win set a new NHL record, as the Rangers are now 8-0 in elimination games at home since 2008. Lundqvist has been in net for all of those wins.

Wednesday, Lundqvist made 40 saves on 41 shots. At the other end, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick only faced 19 shots and gave up two goals. It was a reversal from Game 3, where the overworked Quick stood on his head for the win and Lundqvist couldn’t catch a break despite seeing far fewer shots. After the game, Lundqvist talked about the team’s mindset:

Whatever happens, we’re winning this game. We’re not losing two at home. We want to get back in this series… it’s not impossible, they’ve done it, we came back from 3-1, but you need to be so smart playing against this team. They’re good and they almost trick you sometimes, you think you have under control and they make a couple of quick plays and create something out of basically nothing.

The Kings were the faster team out of the gate. After five minutes, the Kings had three shots on goal, the Rangers none. The Rangers’ first shot had promise, with Rick Nash going to the net. Derrick Stepan’s shot from the half wall went off of Drew Doughty’s stick and fluttered into Jonathan Quick for a whistle.

A few moments later, the Kings took the game’s first penalty. The Rangers’ power play was very controlled, though they took shots with caution. The strategy did at least keep the puck away from the Kings, but it was almost a minute before the Rangers had a good chance, only to be thwarted by Quick.

The penalty had just expired when New York’s Benoit Pouliot scored with deflected a shot from John Moore at the blue line.

The Kings’ first power play came from a delay of game call, when Anze Kopitar pressured Mats Zuccarello into throwing the puck over the glass. The Kings’ best chance came early in the power play, when a puck crept by Lundvquist but Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman got his stick behind it and swept it out, despite having to compete with Jeff Carter, who was trying to push the puck over the line.

It was a good thing the Rangers scored when they did, because for the last 11+ minutes of the first, their triggers were malfunctioning. They got credit for no shots in the second half of the period. The Kings, meanwhile, kept Lundqvist moderately busy, but they did not beat him in the first.

Over seven minutes and a bundle of penalties had gone in the second when the Rangers stretched their lead to two. A fast zone entry by the Rangers ended with a shot from Derek Stepan that fluttered off of Quick, to be put away by Marty St. Louis.

That got the house jumping, and a little extra zip in the Rangers’ step earned them another power play. The Kings threw themselves into the penalty kill and took a couple of short-handed shots, without straying too far from their own blue line. Lundqvist handled those neatly.

Once the Kings killed off that penalty, they started to chip away at the Rangers’ lead. Kings captain Dustin Brown got by Dan Girardi at the Kings blue line, thanks to a broken stick for Girardi. He was able to carry the puck in mostly unmolested, and beat Lundqvist with a late shot.

That goal seemed to open the floodgates for the Kings. The next few minutes showed the Rangers facing onslaught after onslaught from Kings’ forecheckers. The Rangers did manage to hold the zone finally around the 12 minute mark, and generate a few chances before the puck went out of play.

The Kings then found themselves being pretty effectively ejected from the Rangers’ zone, and were limited to one and dones, while the Rangers at least held the offensive zone for longer than one shot. The Kings’ 70s line of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter broke that pattern and maintained steady pressure against the Rangers, controlling the puck and peppering Lundqvist with shots. The Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King line followed up by drawing a penalty that put Dominic Moore in the box for cross-checking.

The penalty kill was made more challenging by another broken stick, this time for Rick Nash. A shot deflected out of play and stopped play before that became much of an issue. After 90 seconds, the Kings’ power play only had one shot on goal. Nash and Stepan were able to kill some time with a short-handed foray to end the penalty kill.

The Rangers missed an opportunity when Quick went behind the net and got tangled up in traffic. The Kings burrowed in and made a shot impossible for the Rangers. Right after that, Jeff Carter broke away in the last minute but this time Lundqvist won the one-on-one contest to keep the Rangers ahead.

The period ended with Los Angeles leading in shots 26-17, 15-11 for the period.

The Kings did not slow down in the third, but the Rangers did not lie down either. Henrik Lundvist had to make some tough saves through traffic in the first ten minutes. One shot from Tyler Toffoli looked dangerous, and it was an expensive shot for the Kings. Marian Gaborik was flattened by Rick Nash behind the net, after getting the puck out to Toffoli.

The Rangers seemed to be repeating the Kings’ third from the last game, clinging to the one goal lead by the skin of their teeth. In the last minutes, Derek Stepan saved a goal by pushing the puck under his goalie with a glove. The referee was in good position to verify that Stepan did not close his hand over the puck.

The Kings pulled Quick in the last 1:11, and an empty net shot from the Rangers’ zone by Brian Boyle went just wide. It didn’t matter, the Rangers held on for the last minute despite some mad scrambles in front of Lundqvist.

Asked whether the team felt like the puck was finally bouncing in their favor, Dominic Moore said:

Definitely when the puck lays on the goal line and doesn’t cross you feel a bit fortunate. But personally I feel like you can’t really think about breaks going one way or the other, you just got to continue to earn your breaks. Hopefully … tonight’s something we can build off in terms of doing some things well and we’ll see what happens next game.

Ryan McDonagh led the Rangers in time on ice with 28:10. Martin St. Louis, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan each took three shots, and no Ranger took more. Dan Girardi blocked six shots for the team lead. Dominic Moore was the best Ranger in the faceoff circle at 47%.

Tanner Pearson led the Kings in shots with eight. Jake Muzzin led the team with five blocked shots, and Drew Doughty led the team in minutes with 26:45. Justin Williams was pointless for the first time in five games.

Game 5 will be played in Los Angeles on Friday at 5 pm PT.

Stanley Cup Final: Kings Shut Out Rangers in Game 3, Lead Series 3-0

By Mary Walsh

After a 3-0 win in New York, the Los Angeles Kings are the verge of sweeping the New York Rangers out of the the Stanley Cup Final. Two seasons ago, they were in the same position against the New Jersey Devils. They also started that series by winning two overtime games, then winning the third with a shutout. The Devils rallied and won the next two to stretch the series to six games.

Of being up three games to none, Justin Williams said:

Just because you’re leading a series doesn’t mean that you’ve won anything.

The game showed improvement in some areas for the Kings. They skipped the sluggish first period and falling behind early. They showed the defensive prowess they are known for. Jonathan Quick turned in an impressive 32 save shutout in his first game at Madison Square Garden.

Of the mood in the Kings’ room, Williams said:

It’s all business in there. Certainly right now, yeah, we’re happy, we’re up three-nothing. But we know as good as anyone that three-nothing doesn’t mean four and the fourth one’s the hardest and we’re going to be ready for it.

Being ready might have to include generating more offense. The Kings were dangerously outshot, testing their goaltender and defensive resilience. In the second period the Rangers outshot the Kings 17-8, in the third 11-2.

A 3-0 shutout might look like an about-face from the two games they won in overtime, but this game should have been closer on the scoreboard than it was. Two of the Kings goals relied on unlucky bounces off of Rangers players.

The Rangers have to be feeling frustration now, and there was one penalty that could well be a focal point of that frustration. At 14:02 of the third period, the Rangers’ Chris Kreider was called for goalie interference, after pushing Drew Doughty in the direction of Jonathan Quick. Doughty went in to Quick and took him down, but no goal, no good scoring chance resulted.

It was not a completely insane call, but it was wildly inconsistent. It made the non-call against Dwight King even more grotesque, as he scored a goal by falling on Henrik Lundqvist in Game Two. Granted, the calls were not made by the same referees, but it is likely to be a sore point.

The first period was noteworthy for two reasons: the Kings scored first, which is so infrequent that it seemed like a mistake. Additionally, the NHL server was down for most of the period so there were no stats available. Once the server came back up, the officials finally made a call, a coincidence no doubt. The call went for New York but they did not score with the man advantage.

Though the penalty took up most of the time remaining in the period, Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter still managed to squeak an even strength goal in before the period ended. Justin Williams found him in the slot, where Carter put a quick wrist shot past Lundqvist. The shot appeared to go off of Dan Girardi’s skate and the tip of Henrik Lundqvist’s glove. It was an auspicious start for the Kings and another point for Justin Williams.

The second period was littered with penalties. They were called at a rate of about one every three and a half minutes, three against each team. Only the Kings converted, and they only did so once.

Starting with a lead did not put the Kings off their rhythm. As usual, they scored early in the second period again, this time with the help of a power play, giving them a 2-0 lead. This put them doubly in unfamiliar territory, since it is their habit to be on the other side of the two goal lead before they win.

The goal was a little later than usual, a power play goal made possible by Marc Staal being called for high-sticking. The call may have been overdue, as other players, including Staal, had gotten away with some high-sticks already. It took the Kings just under a minute to score. Jake Muzzin threw one in from the point while Jeff Carter screened Lundqvist. New York’s Martin St. Louis tried to block the shot but only deflected it around his goaltender.

The third Los Angeles goal came off a two on one of Trevor Lewis and Mike Richards versus Ryan McDonagh. Richards tried to pas the puck but it went off of McDonagh and came back to Richards. By then, he had the shot and he took it.

The Rangers entered the third period trailing by three, having gone 0-7 in the playoffs when trailing after two periods. That had to be as discouraging as the three goal deficit.

The Rangers did make one change late in the second: head coach Alain Vigneault put Rick Nash on the power play. He started by crashing the net, something the Rangers have not done enough of through the series. The collision did little more than aggravate Quick, who gave Nash a glove to the head for his trouble.

Nash was again on the ice for the Rangers power play early in the third period. The power play as a whole was ineffective, mostly taken up by a game of keep away by the Kings.

Henrik Lundqvist made 12 saves for New York. Derick Brassard led the Rangers in shots with five. Ryan McDonagh and Marc Stall each blocked two shots and no Ranger blocked more, but there were not very many to block. McDonagh led the team in time on ice with 26:56.

Jeff Carter led the Kings in shots with four, Jake Muzzin led in blocked shots with four, and Drew Doughty led in time on ice with 26:03.

Game Four will be played Wednesday  in New York at 5:00 PT.

Stanley Cup Final: Kings Win in Double OT, Lead Series 2-0

By Mary Walsh

The Los Angeles Kings took a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. They took their first lead of the game and won more than ten minutes in to double overtime. A Willie Mitchell shot, the game winner was redirected by Dustin Brown.

It was Mitchell’s second point of the game. After the game he said:

I don’t know, we’ve been digging ourselves holes here lately, but our resiliency… We find a way to dig deep and that’s something you just can’t re-create.

The Kings seem to be re-creating it with some proficiency. They have a thing for allowing two goals early and coming back to win anyway. Saturday, they had to recover from three two-goal deficits, twice cutting the deficit to one and finally tying the game in the third period at 4-4.

This is the first time in Stanley Cup history that the first two games of the Final have gone to overtime three seasons in a row.

For their part, the Rangers played valiantly, pushing the Kings back again and again, but they never could stretch the lead past two goals, or hold any of their leads for long enough. Rick Nash, who needs to score, gave it a good shot. Eight shots, actually, leading the Rangers in shots on goal.

Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the win, Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves for the Rangers.

The first period was rough and tumble. Kings forward Jeff Carter got tangled up in a hip check from Ryan McDonagh, which sent him briefly to the Kings’ dressing room. As soon as Carter got back to the bench, Jarret Stoll put Rangers’ forward Dan Girardi into the boards and Girardi left the game for a bit with a right hand injury. He was not gone for long. That all happened in the first half of the period.

The Rangers had the first power play of the game 7:58 in, when Marion Gaborik was called for tripping. The Rangers started very well and got credit for a couple of shots, but could not convert against the aggressive Kings penalty killers. Those penalty killers also found a short-handed chance, as is their habit.

It was just a few seconds after the penalty expired that the Rangers took advantage of a turnover by the Kings’ Justin Williams. Dominic Moore sent the puck up to Ryan McDonagh at the point. He wasted no time and fired the puck in before Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick knew what was coming.

With just under five minutes left in the period, McDonagh went to the box for cross checking Kings captain Dustin Brown. The Kings only managed one shot during the power play. Despite a good chance after the penalty expired (thwarted by a snappy glove save from Lundqvist), the Kings found themselves in another two goal hole before the period ended.

The second goal came from a scramble in the Kings’ end. Derick Brassard got the puck behind the net, sent it up to McDonagh, whose shot went off of Quick to Mats Zuccarello. He was waiting at the corner of the net, and gently tapped it in.

Unlike the last game, the Kings did not get one back before the period ended. The shots after the first were almost even at 10-9 for New York.

The Kings wasted no time with their comeback in the second. At 1:46, the Kings took advantage of a turnover from Brad Richards. Dwight King sent the puck to the slot where Justin Williams was ready to shoot and go to the net, and then pick up his own rebound. He controlled the rebound and passed it back to Jarret Stoll, who found Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist out of position and cut the Rangers’ lead in half.

 

Just past the ten minute mark of the second, the Kings took a too many men penalty. The Kings did a good job of pushing the Rangers out of their zone, but the Rangers made good use of a fast entry, a two on one of Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan. Stepan set up St. Louis for a nice shot from the circle to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

The Kings got another power play when Mats Zuccarello swept Dustin Brown’s leg out from under him. It took them a while to get set up  but Willie Mitchell made good use of traffic in front of Lundqvist to score from the blue line.

The Rangers only let that stand for 11 seconds. A faceoff win and a slick forecheck caused havoc in the Kings’ zone. Quick went to move the puck then tried to leave it for defenseman Willie Mitchell. When the puck bounced over Mitchell’s stick, Mats Zuccarello was right behind him to pounce on it. Zuccarello had barely moved the puck ahead of the goal line when Brassard snapped  it in to restore the two goal lead.

It was the quickest two goals in a Stanley Cup Final in 67 years.

The period ended with the shots slightly favoring the Rangers 22-20.

The Kings scored early in the third period, a goal that had Lundqvist verbalizing his objections. Dwight King fell on the Rangers’ goalie just before the puck went in. It could be argued that he was pushed over by the Rangers’ defenseman, but he was not pushed in to Lundqvist, and was in fact in the blue paint behind Lundqvist and McDonagh before he fell.

In any case, King got the goal with assists to Matt Greene and Justin Williams.

The next few minutes were marked by oddly symmetrical back and forth play. In the seventh minute of the period, the Kings finally held the zone for long enough to put some pressure on the Rangers. Even after a timeout, the Rangers had trouble getting in to the Kings’ zone. A failed clear at the Rangers’ blue line, followed by McDonagh losing his footing near the net, and the Kings had the Rangers outnumbered in front of their net. Marian Gaborik tied the game with his 13th goal of the playoffs.

The Kings did not score in the first two minutes of the next period. On the contrary, the Rangers had the Kings trapped in their own zone five minutes in, forcing the Kings to use their timeout after an icing. The game picked up again after that with both sides trading chances.

One second over the half way mark, Dominic Moore was called for catching Jeff Carter in the face with his stick. The high sticking penalty had the potential to be a heartbreaker. Instead, the Rangers held the Kings off until Rick Nash could sell a convincing interference penalty that put Justin Williams in the box and evened things up for about 30 seconds.

With their own man advantage, the Rangers had no better luck, on that power play or the next that came when Jeff Carter ran into Lundqvist behind the net. There was some concern about Lundqvist’s fitness to continue but he stayed in and seemed no worse for wear.

The first OT period ended without any resolution to the game. The second OT period lasted for ten minutes and was penalty-free. Anze Kopitar won a defensive zone faceoff for the Kings, Slava Voynov took the puck out. Kopitar controlled the puck near the Rangers’ faceoff circle, then sent the puck up to Willie Mitchell at the point. Mitchell’s shot went in between Gaborik and Brown, allowing Brown to tip it past Lundqvist.

The teams meet again in New York, on Monday at 5:00 pm PT.

Sharks’s OT win breaks Kings’ home playoff win streak

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

By Pearl Allison Lo

LOS ANGELES– Patrick Marleau scored his third playoff goal in Game 3 of this series to lead San Jose to a 3-0 series advantage with a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday.

Up until the Sharks’ win, the Kings had won all of their playoff games at home since June 11, 2012.

Besides two straight Los Angeles goals, the scoring went back and forth.

Marleau was aided by Scott Hannan at 6:20 in this much tighter game than the previous two. The goal was their only shot in overtime. Goalie Antti Niemi is now 12-2 in OT careerwise in the playoffs.

Teammate Logan Couture commented on overtime, “…they really took it to us for the first five minutes of that overtime, then we got a lucky bounce and that’s the way things go sometimes.”

On their second shot of the game and 11 seconds into their power play, San Jose’s Brent Burns scored at 3:16 of the first, helped by Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle.

The shot on goal margin for the Kings increased to 7-2, but they could not get the puck in the right spot.

The Sharks paid for a puck over the glass penalty by Jason Demers at 3:23 of the second. Los Angeles’s Tyler Toffoli was able to pass the puck just past Tommy Wingels, and Jarret Stoll shot right away to even the game at 1-1 at 4:48. Drew Doughty also assisted on the play.

The Kings’ Marian Gaborik then single-handedly intercepted one of the passes on his teams’ side and turned it into a 3 on 2 man advantage and goal at 7:59 for the 2-1 lead.

It was short-lived though. Marleau fished the puck out from alongside the boards and passed it to Jason Demers near the blue line. Demers then aimed at the net and Long Beach native Matt Nieto tipped in the puck, to even the game back up at two at 9:17. It was Nieto’s first career playoff goal.

Los Angeles got their fourth power play when James Sheppard was called for tripping. San Jose put the puck over the glass again, but the referees did not make the call.

The other half of Sheppard’s power play continued in the third. Seven seconds before it expired, Jeff Carter had a tip-in from Anze Kopitar and Doughty.

It took more than two power play opportunities following that goal, but three seconds after the second one at 9:17, Sharks’ rookie Tomas Hertl put the loose puck in, persisting several times after it went off goalie Jonathan Quick. Overall in the period, San Jose outshot the Kings 23-8. Hertl was aided by Wingels and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter said, “It’s a tough field, and we won’t go away quietly.”

Game notes: The Sharks go for the sweep at Staples Thursday at 7:30pm.

Deja Vu Puts Sharks Up By Two

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Sunday, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings to take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Quarter Finals. The game winner was scored by Justin Braun, Antti Niemi made 24 saves for the Sharks, and Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the Kings on 40 San Jose Shots. Though the Kings scored first, the Sharks’ dominance through the second two periods was a repeat of an unexpectedly dominant Game One victory.

After the game, Mike Brown said:

Games like this, you don’t stop playing, you don’t give up. That’s how the whole series is going to go and you see what happened when we didn’t stop.

We’re planning on low-scoring games and we gotta play solid defensively. So we can’t really look at these two games and think that the series is gonna go this way.

After a 6-3 victory in Game One series, everyone knew that the Sharks would not have to navigate the mental burden of a five goal lead again. It turns out that everyone was wrong. The Sharks defeated the Kings Sunday by a score of 7-2, scoring seven unanswered goals in the second and third periods. They not only took the five goal lead, they held it until the end of the game.

Talking after the game, Sharks captain Joe Thornton summed up the Sharks’ success thus far:

To do that two games in a row… We’ve been working hard for our goals, and the fourth line just brought this game back in grip for us. But scoring seven tonight… it was… was just a weird night.

That fourth line was the clutch factor in the game. The combination of Andrew Desjardins, Raffi Torres and Mike Brown scored the first two Sharks goals of the game, bringing the Sharks back from a deficit to a tie game in the space of five minutes. After the game, Logan Couture said of the trio:

They got us going, they generate a lot of energy in the building, a lot of energy on our bench. You can tell when they’re out there that they’re going to forecheck hard and if I was a d-man I’d be scared of those guys bearing down on me all the time. So they’ve done a great job in this series.

The Kings opened the scoring under two minutes in. A Jake Muzzin shot from the point went past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with some help from a screen set up by Marian Gaborik. Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar were awarded the assists.

The Sharks responded with a good chance of their own but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had time and space to see the shots and stop them.

After an extended spell in their own zone, and numerous takeaways for both teams, the Kings struck again. Kings forward Jeff Carter got the puck away from Sharks defenseman Jason Demers and sent it in front of the net where Trevor Lewis tapped it in the far corner. Carter got credit for the lone assist.

By the half way point of the first period, the shots favored the Sharks 10-6, but the score was all Kings, 2-0.

One of the Sharks’ better shifts came from an offensive zone attack that included Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels and Scott Hannan, with about six minutes left in the first. As the shot clock indicated, the other lines were spending time in the Kings’ zone but they did not make life very uncomfortable for Quick. Many of their shots were completely unscreened.

Mike Brown gave the fans something to cheer about with some solid hits in the final four minutes, and the Thornton line joined in with a scrum in front of the Kings’ crease. Two penalties came out of that: two minutes each for roughing to Slava Voynov and Brent Burns.

The Sharks ended the first period with a two-goal deficit and a reduced lead in shots, with 15 to the Kings’ 10.

Early in the second period, Tomas Hertl took the ice with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, after taking a shift with Burns and Desjardins moments earlier.

That did not seem to do much, but the Sharks avoided being scored on for almost five minutes, then reversed the dismal trend with a goal of their own. It was Mike Brown’s first playoff goal. Andrew Desjardins centered a pass that found Brown skating into the Kings’ zone. Brown’s shot beat Quick fair and square from the slot.

Moments later, the Sharks got their first power play of the game. That produced a few good chances but did not add to the scoresheet.

It was near the half-way mark of the game when Raffi Torres scored his second of the series. After skating through traffic alongside Desjardins, he found an opening and tied the game. Assist to Andrew Desjardins.

About a minute later, Los Angeles got their first power play after Jason Demers was called for charging. It took the Sharks over 90 seconds to clear the puck for the first time in that penalty kill, but when they did they were rewarded by some inattention from the Kings that lead to an icing. With under 20 seconds left in the penalty the faceoff was in the Kings’ end. That was that and both teams remained perfect on the penalty kill.

The Sharks kept the pressure on. With 5:15 left in the period, James Sheppard won the puck along the boards and put it on net from a bad angle. The rebound went to the wall and Justin Braun, who shot it back in from the point. His hard shot flew by Tommy Wingels and Jonathan Quick to give the Sharks their first lead of the game. Assists went to Sheppard and Pavelski.

The Kings took a third penalty to finish the second, putting the Sharks on the power play to end the middle frame. It was an uninspiring power play, with the Kings ejecting the Sharks very effectively from their zone more than once before San Jose could get set up.

The period ended with shots 27-17 and the score 3-2 Sharks.

Tomas Hertl stayed on the Thornton line, with Pavelski playing third line center. The next goal did not come from either of those lines. The Sharks’ fourth goal came off a brilliant rush from the second line at 1:08 of the period. Matt Nieto centered the puck perfectly for Patrick Marleau who carried it as far as the opposite faceoff circle to put it by Jonathan Quick. Nieto and Logan Couture got the assists.

A nice neutral zone poke check from Scott Hannan started the next rush, sending the puck in for James Sheppard. Sheppard and the third line held the zone well, but it took a second neutral zone takeaway and another rush to put the Sharks up by three. Joe Pavelski scored that, after Dan Boyle  got the puck to him at the Kings’ blue line. The Kings were in the middle of a line change when Boyle snatched away that puck. Assists to Boyle and Wingels.

At 11:42 of the period, Marleau carried the puck in along the wall and passed it to Couture. Couture skated around two Los Angeles defenders to beat and unscreened Quick, who was moving across the crease.

6-2 Sharks. Assists to Marleau and Nieto.

A scrum at the Kings’ net resulted in a few penalties being doled out. Four minutes to LA for roughing, and two to San Jose for roughing. The offenders were Kings defenseman Matt Greene and Sharks’ forward Raffi Torres. Once again on the power play, the Sharks would not score in the five on four advantage, but just 30 seconds in to that penalty, Jarret Stoll gave the Sharks a two man advantage by high-sticking Joe Thornton and going to the box for two minutes.

After some nice passing around the perimeter, Thornton was left holding the puck in the right faceoff circle, with just Jonathan Quick between him and the Sharks’ seventh goal.

7-2 Sharks. The seventh goal assists went to Pavelski and Boyle. It was the Sharks’ first power play goal of the game.

With just over five minutes left, more hostilities broke out, sending several players to the locker room early and putting the Sharks on the power play again. For LA, Kyle Clifford got two minutes for roughing and a ten minute misconduct, Dustin Brown got a ten minute misconduct. For San Jose, Desjardins received a ten minute misconduct and Mike Brown got the same. Finally, the Kings’ Mike Richards went to the box for four minutes, confined for spearing.

As expected, Todd McLellan did not alter his lineup for Game Two from the group that won Game One. The scratches were Martin Havlat, Tyler Kennedy, Bracken Kearns, Matt Irwin and Adam Burish. He did exercise his right of misdirection by putting Havlat out for warmups but that was all we saw of Number 9 on Sunday.

The Sharks and the Kings meet for Game Three on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Kings Beat Sharks 1-0, Stalock Sets New Shutout Record

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center on Monday night. It was the first game in 15 between San Jose and Los Angeles that went to the visitor. In the middle of the loss, Alex Stalock broke Evgeni Nabokov’s franchise record for shutout minutes, set back in 2009. Stalock has reset the record at 178:55.

Did Stalock know he was on the verge of breaking that record?

Other than [Logan Couture] reminding me every single day, but… I don’t know what it was at.

It was 171:18.

The game was one of the hardest fought low-scoring games the Sharks have played in a long while. That was exactly what Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had expected:

We got the game we thought we’d get from both teams really. It was a very tightly contested game, not a lot of chances at either end. They buried their one opportunity and we had a couple that we didn’t. That’s probably the end of the story. I thought that eight minutes of penalty kill time didn’t help us at all and to nullify a couple of power plays by taking penalties.

The game was noteworthy as a third start for Stalock in six games. McLellan has expressed an intent to start Stalock more, to compensate for the added wear and tear that Niemi might incur going to the Olympics. He appears to be sticking to that plan.

The Kings started the game with a long spell in the Sharks’ zone. They got credit for two shots before play went the other way.

When the first penalty was called, just over five minutes had gone by and only four shots had been recorded, three from Los Angeles. The penalty went to San Jose’s Brad Stuart for holding. Kings didn’t get more than a shot on the power play.

A few minutes later, LA’s Colin Fraser decided that punching Brent Burns would be a good idea. No one else thought so and the pair were separated quickly. Both went to the box with matching roughing minors.

The Sharks finished the four on four time in the Kings’ zone, but the best chance they had was a quick shot from Pavelski that went just wide. With 4:52 left in the period, the shots were 7-3 for the Kings.

By the end of the period, the Kings led in shots 8-4.

Early in the second period, Robyn Regehr went to the box for interference, giving the Sharks their first power play of the game. The Kings did an excellent job of keeping the Sharks away from shooting lanes, which is essentially what they had been doing all game.

The Sharks didn’t have to wait long before they were on the penalty kill, as Dan Boyle went to the box for holding. The Sharks penalty killers, didn’t allow the Kings to spend much time in their zone at all, several times turning them back entirely before they could cross the blue line. the Kings managed one or two good chances but their power play wound up being even less effective than the Sharks’.

With 11:08 left in the second, the teams got another shot at four on four, when Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar went to the box for hooking and roughing respectively. As before, neither team could sustain any offensive pressure.

After such a hard-fought thirty-plus minutes, Stalock’s shutout streak ended with a quick shot from Anze Kopitar, off a pass from Jeff Carter. Anze Kopitar slipped around the Sharks defense and Carter sent a carefully-timed pass right to him. After the game, Stalock explained what he saw:

It was kind of a two on one and a half I guess. We had a guy coming back, and he passed it across. We got a stick on it, maybe it slowed it down and bought him a little time and he ended up beating me on a one on one play.

The Sharks drew a penalty in the final minute of the second period, a hooking call on Willie Mitchell. The Sharks didn’t get a shot on that power play, in the second or third period.

The shots at the end of the second period were 13-8 for the Kings.

Early in the third period, the Kings’ Slava Voynov went to the penalty box for cross-checking Bracken Kearns, but just 17 seconds later, Joe Thornton went to the other box for hooking. It was the third time the teams had played four on four in the game.

With 10:13 left in the period, the Sharks finally drew even on the shot clock, but the Kings were keeping those shots hurried and unscreened.

With 9:52 left, Joe Pavelski went to the penalty box for four minutes after high-sticking Kopitar in the mouth. The penalty kill started out inauspiciously. The Sharks had a short-handed chance but a minor collision between Stalock and Brad Stuart followed, and then a pile up of bodies on top of Stalock in the Sharks’ crease. The referee talked briefly to Stalock and play resumed.

The Sharks had time to get their penalty kill together. Tommy Wingels described that successful kill as a chance to build momentum:

Hard-fought, that’s for sure. I think our penalty kill at the end there gave us a chance to win the game. When you kill off a four minute penalty there, you get some momentum off it and I think we did. Ultimately with your penalty kill you want to keep yourself in the game and I think in the third there we did a good job with it.

The Sharks did get the puck cleared at regular intervals, keeping their penalty killers fresh. As the last minute of the kill started, Marleau and Wingels broke away for a decent chance, but the Kings’ defenders held Wingels up enough to prevent him getting a good shot off.

By the end of the penalty, the teams were still tied in shots, 20-20. A timeout and three shots later, the Kings had broken through the visitors curse by holding on to win 1-0.

Alex Stalock made 20 saves on 21 shots. Bracken Kearns lead the Sharks in shots on goal with five, Matt Irwin getting credit for four shots. Tommy Wingels and Mike Brown lead the Sharks in hits with five each, while Jason Demers and Brad Stuart lead the team in bockled shots with three apiece.

Jonathan Quick made 23 saves for the shutout. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar lead the Kings in shots with four each, Matt Greene led the Kings in hits with five, Greene and Willie Mitchell lead the Kings in blocked shots with four each.