There was intensity and drama, fast-paced back-and-forth action, and a close game between a pair of division rivals.
In other words, a typical Sharks-Kings affair.
This one went to the visitors at Staples Center, with the Sharks (27-16-2) wrapping up their season series against the Kings (22-19-4) with a 3-2 win on Wednesday night.
San Jose’s defense was stellar all night, with Martin Jones as the primary backstop but the penalty kill also standing strong. The Sharks killed off all four of the Kings’ power plays, and held off the home team’s late surge in regulation to attempt to even the score.
Head coach Pete DeBoer liked his team’s efforts without three regulars in the lineup in Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi:
“I think we competed our ass off and played hard. This isn’t an easy building to win in. They play a physical game. We stood in there and played a real complete game.”
In a jovial locker room after the game as players’ dads filtered in (this is the annual team fathers’ trip), captain Joe Pavelski echoed his coach’s thoughts:
“It’s a good feeling in this room when we came in here. Just felt like a complete effort out there.”
Up by one entering the third, the Sharks had a chance to extend the lead back to two goals early in the period when Michael Haley’s wrist shot from in close rang off the post. The Kings, then, pounced minutes later. Dwight King had a splendid look on a rebound from point-blank, but Jones denied him of the equalizer with a tremendous right pad save.
“Jones, he was solid. He made some good saves in crucial moments, like he always does.”
The Sharks opened up a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. A few seconds into a power play, Pavelski tucked it home after a shot by Joe Thornton bounced hard off the back boards right to Pavelski.
But the Kings cut the deficit back to one by the end of the second. After a Sharks failed to score on a power play, the Kings capitalized on the momentum off the penalty kill. A net-mouth scramble produced a wide-open point-blank shot for Marian Gaborik, who punched it in.
While the Sharks didn’t capitalize on all their chances to build a larger cushion, DeBoer was content with the defense staying strong:
“I liked our commitment to defending. I don’t think we gave them much … I thought our work away from the puck in order to defend tonight was excellent.”
A relatively open first period featured three goals, two of which came before the NBCSN national telecast could even switch over from its early game between the Bruins and Red Wings, which ended a shootout.
The Sharks struck first less than four minutes into the game on a hard wrist shot by Brent Burns from the point after Thornton set him up with a nice drop-off pass.
Tommy Wingels gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead heading into first intermission, finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Haley, who delivered a nice pass under the defenseman’s stick to give Wingels plenty of open net to shoot at. It was the Sharks’ fourth line delivering an unexpected goal at an opportune time. And it was Haley, usually more known for being an enforcer than for creating scoring chances, with the offensive play of the game for the Sharks:
“It’s definitely nice to get a goal. That’s always a positive. That’s what we’ve been saying all year. Be in their end and get a forecheck. Luckily of late, we’ve been getting some points, so that’s good.”
In all, the Sharks didn’t look a least bit like the shorthanded team on paper. DeBoer said:
“The guys responded to the challenge of being a little short-staffed here and played hard.”
Next up for the Sharks, looking to climb back up in the Pacific Division after falling from first to third in a matter of a week, will be the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at home. For now, they’re done with the Kings, claiming the season series 3-2. According to DeBoer, five games against this team is enough:
“I am glad to be done with them. If we don’t see them again, I’ll be alright with that.”