April 5, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks celebrate their 6-5 victory against the Los Angeles Kings after the shootout period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Sharks Clinch Playoff Birth, Edge LA Kings 6-5 in Barn Burner

Joe Pavelski scored what proved to be the game winning goal in a shootout period as the San Jose Sharks edge the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 in a game that was truly a barn burner at the Staples Center. Pavelski’s tally along with three key saves in the shootout by Antti Niemi gave the Sharks a virtual tie with the Kings for the top of the Pacific Division, both teams with 94 points each in the Western Conference Standings. The Sharks and Kings will rematch Saturday Night at the Shark Tank in a game that could decide the Pacific Division and who gets the third seeding in the Western Conference. Losses by Dallas and Colorado earlier Thursday Evening clinched playoff spots for the Sharks and Kings respectively.

This was a game that featured almost everything you could ask to see in a single hockey game. If you wanted power play goals, you got them. If you wanted penalty kills, you got them. If you wanted good goal tending, you got that. If you wanted bad goal tending, you got that. If you wanted to see fights, including the under card of Joe Thornton versus Drew Doughty in the first period, you got that too. If you wanted to see a “Gordie Howe” hat trick, you got two of them from Ryane Clowe and Thornton. If you wanted to see Blake Griffin go “poster” on Pau Gassol, well you should have been at the Staples Center Wednesday Night, you missed that. Otherwise, it was entertainment for the whole family. Just maybe a little more fun at the end if you were a Sharks fan.

Recapping The Ride of the Wild Side:

Round One- The Kings would get the early jump in this game as Niemi would see no shortage of pucks being launched at him. In the period Niemi would make 17 saves with a good many of those being quite the adventure. The Kings at one point in the first period outshot the Sharks 7-1 and would eventually gain the upper hand thanks to back to back penalties to both the Sharks and Kings, with LA getting the man advantage on Thornton’s crosscheck of Doughty which start a fight between the two. Just seconds before the Sharks Tommy Wingles and the Kings Colin Fraiser would both go to the box for roughing up one another. The Kings came out of this exchange with a four on three man advantage. With just over 20 seconds left in the LA man advantage, the Kings’ Alec Martinez would follow up the rebound of a Anze Kopitar shot and wrist the puck past Niemi to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. A short time later in the period Niemi would stop a hard shot by Jared Stoll that just missed going over the Sharks net minder and into the net.

The Kings would hold the lead and limit the Sharks to just eight shots on goal, however Jonathan Quick was only quick enough to stop seven. Jason Demers drew the Sharks even with 3:33 remaining in the first period as he was able to take a loose puck off of a Dominic Moore shot on goal and able to lift it up and over Quick to tie the game. As the first period drew to a close, that Sharks got what seemed to be a golden chance when Kyle Clifford was called for a five minute major when he attempted to turn Logan Couture into part of the signage along the boards. The Sharks would enter the second period with a good 4:16 remaining on the five minute man advantage.

An Unlucky Seven Minutes- Despite having the five minute power play, the Kings penalty kill was very aggressive and showed why they are ranked third in the NHL as the Sharks managed just four shots on goal only to see Quick  make rather routine looking saves. As the five minute man advantage drew closer to evaporating, the Kings penalty kill units got more aggressive and managed to clear most pucks out of their zone. When the Sharks were able to maintain zone pressure, the Kings did a nice job of flooding the Sharks shooting lanes. This marked the second time this season this Sharks were shutout on a five minute major power play. Just a moment after this huge opportunity was missed, the Sharks would get another power play chance when the Kings’ Doughty was called for hooking. In these two minutes, the Sharks managed just one shot on goal and the Kings actually had two short handed breakaways which Niemi had to snuff out.

Twice Bitten- On the heels of two strong penalty kills, LA had a new life and started to take control of the game a create pressure in the Sharks defensive zone. Eventually the pressure would force the Sharks to commit a key penalty when Daniel Winnik was whistled for a roughing penalty. The Kings had another power play and this time only needed 33 seconds Stoll would tip in the rebound of a Willie Mitchell slap shot that Niemi tried to control but could not. The loose puck created a huge scrum around the Sharks net before Stoll was able to tip in the puck at the goal line. Moments later the Kings would increase their lead to 3-1 as Dustin Brown beat Niemi with a hard wrister from the slot as the Kings were heading up ice on an odd man rush. Brown was set up nicely by a perfect drop feed from Kopitar.

The Jumbo & Clowe Show- With the Kings up by two it seemed that they were about to take control of the game. Shorty after the faceoff Clowe decided this was a good time to give his team a spark as he met up with Clifford, and basically mopped the ice with him in appreciation for his attempt to turn Couture into part of the signage earlier in the evening. Clowe’s TKO of Clifford seemed to wake up the Sharks, though they still had to endure a tough and fast Kings team that was pushing the envelope for most of the evening. The Sharks would get a break late in the second period when for some reason Quick decided to push down Moore from behind the Kings net drawing a roughing penalty with 1:30 remaining in the period. With the Sharks on the power play, Quick did make a couple of saves before Thornton camped out in front of Quick was able to deflect Dan Boyle’s slap shot past the Kings net mider to bring team teal to within one goal at 3-2 with just 27 seconds remaining in the period. As things would turn out, this may have been arguably the biggest goal of the game for the Sharks who were back in a game despite the Kings dominance of the first two periods.

Achieving “Barn Burner” Status- The third period was a wild ride that would have been worth the price of admission just by itself. Just a few minutes into the final stanza the Kings ‘Slava Voynov would have a shot attempt blocked by Clowe who had then had a breakaway chance for team teal. Clowe once he got to the puck immediately drilled a slap shot and buried it past Quick to give the Sharks their second goal in less than three minutes playing time to tie the game at 3-3. However, the wild period had only begun. A few moments later Pavelski would take an uncharacteristic tripping penalty giving LA a man advantage once again. Just as before, once again the Kings wasted very little time in converting the opportunity as Justin Williams would drill a slap shot which beat Niemi and gave LA the lead back at 4-3.

Shortly after the Kings grabbed the lead, they also grabbed an untimely two minute minor of their own as Rob Scuderi would draw a delay of game infraction. The Sharks given this opportunity this time wasted little time as Patrick Marleau drilled a wrist shot from the right point that cleared Quick into the back of the net to tie the game again just 61 seconds after the Kings had taken the lead. The game from here would to onto to achieve “Barn Burner” status as both teams exchanged blows with each team needing some good goal tending and defensive plays to keep the opponent off of the board. The Sharks would get a power play chance later in the period when Kopitar was called for tripping Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Once again, the Sharks used their weapons on offense to come through as Martin Havlet took a perfect feed pass from Clowe who was behind the Kings goal and drilled a wrister past Quick to give the Sharks their first lead of the evening at 5-4 with 8:23 remaining in the third period.

The Sharks seemingly were in a good position to take this game in regulation up until TJ Galiardi was called for elbowing 4:44 remaining in regulation. Things then went from bad to worse for the Sharks when just 42 seconds later Marleau was whistled for a tripping penalty, giving the Kings a five on three advantage on the power play. With the two man advantage in full effect, LA did not need much time to draw even when Williams put away his second power play goal of the evening just 31 seconds after Marleau was shown the penalty box. The Sharks would kill the remainder of the penalty and soon the third period would draw to a close with the game tied at 5-5.

Working Overtime- You somehow had to know that a game like this would somehow end up being a three point game. The question now was who would get that extra point? If the Sharks did not get it, team teal mathematically could no longer win the Pacific Division. The Sharks tried their best to get the deal done in the extra period and even caught a break when the Kings’ Brown was called for a holding penalty with 1:14 remaining in the overtime period. Despite the Sharks having some open ice and good looks at the net, they could not get the puck past Quick despite three solid shots on goal from Couture, Thornton and Boyle.

Pavelski/Niemi = Closers- The Shootout period saw the Kings roll out Mike Richards, Brown and Kopitar to challenge Niemi. The Sharks countered with Clowe, Pavlelski and Boyle. After stoning Clowe’s first attempt, Quick would get beat by Pavelski’s shot attempt as he roofed it over the Kings’ net minder. Meanwhile Niemi would turn away both Richards and Brown before coming up with a point blank save on Kopitar’s attempt to close the game out.

Game Analysis- The Sharks tonight showed some courage and character as they starred some hard adversity versus an LA Kings team that was ready to play. It took a team effort in the end and the Sharks found a way to pull that together by a hard charging third period where they needed goals by the bucket load. On the evening, Clowe along with Thornton and Marleau each had assists and were able to bring back the Sharks in a game that if played a month again, teal teal probably would have lost by three. The Sharks refused to quit and matched the Kings with a high level of intensity that carried them throughout the evening. Niemi did not have his best night in net and probably would be the first to admit that, however he was clutch through earlier parts of the game and certainly in the overtime and shootout periods. With the win, the Sharks clinched a playoff birth along with the Kings. It’s just a matter now of how the seeding will break down, and that will be finalized within the next 48 hours.


The King Shark 

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