The San Jose Sharks start the season on a positive note defeating rival Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Speed, pressure, and solid goaltending were the difference in the Sharks edging out the Kings at home.
A re-energized fan base packed SAP Center to welcome the defending Western Conference Champions. With the main core returning from last season and new offseason additions, the San Jose Sharks were ready to start the new season. After fanfare and banner raising, the Sharks got down to business after the opening faceoff.
Early in the third period, Logan Couture kicked a puck loose from the boards to Joonas Donskoi who looked to feed Mikkel Boedker for a shot. Instead, the pass was broken up by Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty, but he could not clear the puck. His block sent the puck right to the stick of Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns who knew exactly what to do. He found the corner of the net, going blocker side of goalie Jeff Zatkoff in what would be the game-winner.
To the dismay of Doughty, he was left pounding the ice in frustration as his mistake cost the Kings. Earlier, he helped his side get the opening goal, registering an assist. However, the speed of San Jose proved too much as he was constantly defending.
Los Angeles opened the scoring on a power-play goal by Tyler Toffoli, a forward who seems to always make his presence felt when playing against San Jose. Martin Jones appeared to have the post covered, but Toffoli slipped a shot past Jones’ shoulder to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. The energy built up from the opening ceremonies took an early hit from the quick goal.
Undeterred, the Sharks slowly built up momentum with all four lines generating offensive chances around the Kings net. With under six minutes to play in the first, the Sharks knotted the score at 1-1 on Couture’s power-play goal. Originally, his snipe was waved off as the refs believed the shot struck the post. Upon review, the puck hit the post and the inside crossbar, and the result was indeed a good goal.
A scrum broke out when the refs originally waved the goal off. Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick was involved as all players on the ice got together. In the end, both he and Sharks’ captain Joe Pavelski received penalties for roughing.
Quick was tested early in the first period making 14 saves. Despite giving up a goal, he looked comfortable between the pipes and frustrate the Sharks all night. However, he would never take the ice after the end of the first period.
To start the second period, backup goalie Zatkoff took the ice instead of Quick, who apparently suffered a lower body injury. From Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter, he said Quick suffered the injury on the last shift of the period. Perhaps the discomfort Quick felt made the coaches decide to remove him as a precaution.
Zatkoff did an admirable job coming in for the injured Quick, making 15 saves. The Sharks peppered the backup goaltender with shots, but he was up to the task. Despite a clean slate in the second period, the third-period goal by the Sharks was the only blemish for Zatkoff.
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Jones entered this season as San Jose’s undisputed starting goaltender and he showed no signs of wear from last season, stopping 21 shots. Despite giving up an early goal, he remained calm and kept San Jose in the game the rest of the way.
Speed was apparent throughout the game as San Jose was creating scoring chances in transition and turnovers. The Kings looked sluggish at both ends and didn’t execute effectively. Besides Couture and Burns scoring, the fourth line for the Sharks made an impact.
Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto, two Sharks entering camp with their jobs on the line, combined speed and physicality to spark the Sharks’ offense early. Both will have to continue this play constantly should they want to remain in San Jose.
With the first win under their belt, San Jose can hit the road without a sour taste of an opening loss to rival Los Angeles. Now the Sharks can focus on establishing road dominance again after leading the NHL last season in wins on the road.
Columbus will mark the start of the five-game road trip beginning Saturday. The Blue Jackets in the past have challenged the work ethic of the Sharks by taking advantage of mistakes. A matchup with Detroit the following Saturday will conclude the road trip. Although in separate conferences, Sharks and Red Wings always have entertaining contests.
San Jose has gotten off on the right foot with an opening win at home. While this was just the season opener, the Sharks appear quicker from last season. Should the speed hold up throughout the season, the ultimate goal may finally be a reality.