The San Jose Sharks do not want to make excuses for falling to the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday, October 30. Whatever the reasons, they have not won at Staples Center since April of 2012.
They had better hope this loss was not an indication their Pacific Division rival is the better team this year, too. After a 10-1-1 start, it looked like they were back on top. It could be that this loss was simply because they were tired from their road trip, injuries finally caught up with them or they were due for a bad game after a dozen good ones.
The Sharks were outplayed in every phase of the game but blocked shots (17-7, with a 27-18 edge in the percentage of attempts blocked and one every 1.4 shots allowed vs. every 2.9). The Kings had a whopping 39-23 edge in faceoffs, yet had only three more giveaways (20-17) and managed two more takeaways (5-3).
Thanks to San Jose’s shot-blocking, the extra 17 possessions contributed to a just a 23-20 edge in shots on goal. However, Los Angeles attempted 24 more shots (63-39) and still registered more than twice the hits (46-21). That speaks to a team that was more ready for the high level of competition…at least after the first shift.
Ten seconds into the game, Tyler Kennedy already had the puck deep in the attacking zone and found Logan Couture in the right faceoff circle. The team’s scoring leader pulled up to give himself a passing lane for a pinching Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who added yet another of the many one-timer goals for the Sharks this season.
From there, the Kings bounced back. It only took a little over two minutes for Drew Doughty to slap home a tying goal. They did give up another go-ahead, one-timer goal from the slot on an odd-man rush—Tommy Wingels feeding Joe Pavelski—but had drawn even in shots for the final 19:47 of the period and were controlling the puck.
Just over three minutes after regulation, Dustin Brown got the puck to Slava Voynov, whose point-shot was tipped in by Jarret Stoll to even the score. The teams settled down defensively until Kyle Clifford ran into Antti Niemi and knocked the net off the moorings—too much contact for officials not to call no matter how accidental or harmless—late in the second. Jason Demers got the puck to Patrick Marleau on the boards 40 seconds into the power play, who laced another beautiful pass to the slot Couture one-timed home to regain the lead.
San Jose made that stand until their second penalty for too many men on the ice—another example of poor play—with eight minutes to go. Los Angeles needed just 21 seconds to score, with Anze Kopitar recovering a the puck from Mike Richards and feeding Justin Williams to tie the game.
The Sharks clung to the point they had earned from there. Outside of one power play, they had no shots and just three attempts in the final 15-plus minutes. Once overtime hit, they were simply overwhelmed. After the Kings won both faceoffs, registering both shots, all three attempts and getting the only takeaway and hit, Justin Braun had to hook Jeff Carter. On their third attempt and second shot 99 seconds later, they won the game when Kopitar one-timed a Doughty pass.
While this was a team performance by the Kings, there were three of their players that stuck out. Williams was also one of three players to score a goal and assist for the home crowd, but is left off for two giveaways to just one takeaway, though he got three of five shots on goal.
The Sharks needed a couple impact performances to earn a point, and Couture (goal, assist) was narrowly left off the three stars for winning just two of nine faceoffs, having a giveaway to go with his takeaway and missing the net on his other three shots.
- Kopitar’s game-winning goal and assist came with four shots in five attempts, one hit, one takeaway and 12 wins in 18 draws.
- Not only did Doughty set up the game-winner, but he scored the first Los Angeles goal on one of his two shots on goal (six attempts) and added two hits.
- Vlasic was tied with John McCarthy for the lead in blocks (three) and both were among many Sharks tied with two hits. His goal shows the offensive skill he was known for before coming to the NHL.
On a side note, Martin Havlat returned to the ice for the first time in over five months. He attempted just one shot (blocked) but surprisingly two hits and a blocked shot. More importantly, he survived at least two big hits.