By Mary Walsh
AP photo: Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was kept busy all night by the Sharks here a shot goes wide in the first period at SAP Center on Wednesday night
SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center on Wednesday, by a score of 3-2. The win gives San Jose a 3-1 series lead, sometimes called a stranglehold. Despite rumors that there would be changes to the Sharks lineup for Game 4, there were none. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer did not even alter his line combinations. The lack of change paid off. The team as a whole was sharper and more balanced than it had been on Monday. Even when they gave up two goals early in the third period, they corrected quickly enough to hold on for the win. It was altogether an impressive performance.
The fourth line that struggled in Game 3 pulled themselves together and played very effective minutes. After Wednesday’s game, coach DeBoer talked about the line of Chris Tierney, Tommy Wingels and Nick Spaling:
They were excellent. Again, I think with our group, every time this year that we’ve challenged them to be better, they responded and I think that speaks to the character in the room. And those guys I thought were excellent tonight for us. I didn’t hesitate to put them out with four or five minutes left in the game.
All three Sharks goals were power play goals, scored over four power plays. This was a vast improvement over their 0-5 power play performance Monday. The game winner was scored by Patrick Marleau, with additional goals scored by Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski. Martin Jones made 26 saves for the Sharks. Jonathan Quick also made 26 saves, for the Kings. Los Angeles goals were scored by Trevor Lewis and Luke Schenn.
The Sharks spent most of the first five minutes in the Kings zone, but could not find any good shots. Near the five-minute mark, the Kings went the other way, frst two on one, then when Justin Braun caught up to them, three on two. That led to a prolonged attack in the Sharks’ zone. Martin Jones stopped the three shots that came his way, but when the Sharks finally got the puck out it was by icing it. The Sharks were on their heels for several minutes even after that. Their forays into the Kings’ zone were short and not productive. Slowly, the Sharks started pushing back. They were spending less time trapped in their own zone when the 10 minute mark ticked by. But the shots were still 7-2 Los Angeles.
By the time the period ended, the Sharks had corrected that disparity. They saw a good number of excellent chances pass them by, since no one was in the right spot to take advantage of unexpected, glaring opportunities. The shots were 11-8 San Jose, and 9-2 San Jose for the second half of the period. The teams were even in faceoff wins.
Jeff Carter started the second off with a roughing penalty 30 seconds in, against Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks maintained the attack for a solid 40 seconds and then a crazy bounce sent the puck off the back boards and through the crease, then off a skater and back through the crease, still not going in. This disrupted the play enough for the Kings to clear the zone.
The Sharks retrieved the puck behind their own goal line and resumed the attack. This time the Sharks did not take long. A cross-ice pass from Joel Ward to Brent Burns found him above the left faceoff circle. Quick could not get across in time and Burns’ trademark shot blew by him to give the Sharks the lead. Assist went to Ward and Vlasic.
Before the cheers died down, play had resumed and Jonathan Quick was handling the puck behind his net. Matt Nieto, chasing the puck down, caught Quick in the back of his skates. Both players went down and Nieto went to the box. The Sharks penalty killers started out well and had a short-handed chance half way through the penalty, with Chris Tierney almost skating in front of Quick for a shot before being held up by Kings defenders.
In the final seconds of the penalty kill, Karlsson, Vlasic and Thornton carried play back into the offensive zone and set the Kings spinning for a shift.
Unfortunately, that penalty kill was followed by another less than a minute later. Joel Ward was called for high sticking. The Kings had a good chance about half way through but an overhead clear by Vlasic allowed the Sharks to regroup and change.
The Sharks finished that up with another short handed chanced, and not long after it expired, yet another outrageously improbable missed chance. A Kings skater got tangled up with his goalie and a Shark and all were out of play for several seconds, with the puck sitting in the blue paint. No Sharks skater could get to it, including the one trapped in the body tangle inches away.
The score remained 1-0.
The Sharks drew another power play when Tomas Hertl was tripped next to the Kings net by Rob Scuderi. 39 seconds into the power play, Patrick Marleau sent the puck behind the net to Thornton, who sent it out front for Joe Pavelski. A fast shot as he fell to his knees earned Pavelski his fourth goal of the playoffs.
The game tempo increased after that. The Sharks drove play for a long spell after that. When they did not have th epuck, they wasted little time stripping the Kings of it, or knocking them off of it. Brenden Dillon made Dustin Brown pay for sendng the puck around the boards, and Patrick Marleau added a solid hit or two.
The Kings finally did get some traction in the last three minutes of play, but it did not last for more than a minute. The Sharks were back in the Kings’ zone at 7:30 when Luke Schenn was caught roughing Joe Thornton. The Sharks did not convert on their third power play but the Kings did not take any leisurely skates into the Sharks’ zone either.
The shots for the period were 13-8 San Jose.
The teams picked up where they left off for the third. 1:34 into the period, Jamie McBain caught Joonas Donskoi in the face with a high stick. Five seconds into that penalty, Patrick Marleau stopped the puck with a skate, kicked it to his stick, and put the puck in the net. Assists went to Logan Couture and Brent Burns.
The Kings got on the board just 69 seconds later when Luke Schenn’s shot from the blue line got by Martin Jones. Trevor Lewis was in front of Jones, wrestling with a Sharks defender. As the shot came in, Lewis fell into Jones. Coach DeBoer challenged the goal for goaltender interference but the call stood up. The goal went to Lewis, with assists to Luke Schenn and Kris Versteeg.
The game got a little more interesting at 6:44, when Schenn took a shot through a long line of traffic and beat Jones, closing the gap to one goal. Assists went to Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik.
After that, the Kings tried more of those shots, but Jones seemed to see them better. The Kings kept pushing, they caught up on the shot clock, and as the final minutes ticked away, the game lost none of its intensity. The Sharks spent a lot of time with the puck but they were not getting the shots or the chances they had before. Even with the Kings net empty, the Kings kept the Sharks from taking good shots. The Sharks managed a couple of shots from their own zone but missed the net.
With 18.3 seconds to go, Los Angeles took their time out, then sent six skaters back on the ice for an offensive zone draw. It was to no avail as Game 4 slipped away from the Kings.
Game 5 will be back in Los Angeles at Staples Center on Friday.