The San Jose Sharks (49-20-9, 107 points) defeated the L.A. Kings (45-27-6, 96 points) by the final score of 2-1 at the SAP Center in San Jose. This was the final regular season game of the season between these bitter rivals, though it is looking more and more likely they will see more of each other in the first round of the playoffs in a couple weeks.
This evening’s game was filled with nastiness and hate, two things that we have grown to love when these guys go at it. There were big hits all night and when it was said and done there was a total of 84 hits. Even behind the play there was plenty of jawing and captain Joe Thornton was even ready to drop the gloves but the officials got between him and Slava Voynov before anything would escalate. Still, this game was great from start to finish and no doubt guys were trying to send a message for when the next time both sides square off.
Perhaps the biggest loss of the night though for the L.A. Kings who lost defenseman Drew Doughty to an “upper-body injury” (yup it’s that time of year). He was actually the one who threw a body check at Tyler Kennedy but after the hit was the one who looked to be in pain. Immediately after he went straight to the dressing room in the middle of the first period and was not seen for the rest of the game.
In the first period it was Los Angeles who took the upper hand early as they held more possession and zone time than the San Jose Sharks. By the end of the period they also held a 10-5 lead in shots, but more importantly a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard. That goal came off the stick of Jordan Nolan on a tip-in off a shot from the point. After the first it was 1-0 Kings and they looked great.
In the second period the Sharks started to get things going their way, and on their second power play of the game scored right off the draw. Brent Burns, who received the puck after Thornton won the draw, wasted no time in firing the puck on net with Joe Pavelski providing a screen in front and was able to beat goaltender Martin Jones to tie the game at one apiece.
Five minutes later the San Jose Sharks would take the lead when Logan Couture scored his 21st goal of the season on a wrap-around. The play was initially started on a shot from the point that Jones failed to cover up. Couture then picked up the puck on Jones’ left as it lay in the crease and went around the net beating the Kings’ goaltender to the other post and putting it home. With that it was 2-1.
In the final stanza the Kings looked to be getting back on track as their forecheck was once again causing problems for the San Jose Sharks. But, even with a power play opportunity and a pulled goaltender late in the game they were unable to tie it up. Instead the Sharks pulled back to withing one point of the Anaheim Ducks for the division lead. Credit Antti Niemi for coming up big tonight notching 26 saves.
One of the keys to tonight’s game was definitely special teams where the San Jose Sharks were able to get one of their two goals with the man-advantage while their penalty kill was strong stopping all five Los Angeles power plays.
Also key in tonight’s game was the physicality of San Jose as they outhit the Kings by the large margin of 52-32. No doubt that came into their favor, especially late in the game, because Los Angeles has played the night before.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Logan Couture (1 goal)
2. Antti Niemi (26 saves)
3. Marian Gaborik