Dan Boyle’s second goal of the evening came at the absolutely perfect time for the San Jose Sharks. Boyle’s wrister beat LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with 1:02 remaining in the overtime period to give team teal their second straight come from behind win of their instate rival by a 3-2 score. The good news for the Sharks is that they (along with the LA Kings) already had the playoffs in hand irregardless of the game’s outcome. The bad news for the both the Sharks and Kings was that the Phoenix Coyotes had earlier convincingly hammered the Minnesota Wild 4-1 to clinch the Pacific Division. The Coyotes earlier win rendered the final Sharks-Kings match of the year as a “pick your poison” affair as the games winner would draw the St Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs while the losing team would find themselves packing their bags for British Columbia and a date with the Vancouver Canucks.
Boyle’s game winning goal came after both teams as they did just two nights earlier in LA put on a good display of hard nosed hockey that was truly a fight to the finish. It was Boyle who also started the Sharks rally just 38 seconds into the third period after the Sharks had struggled through a seeming futile first two periods in which several opportunities were missed, including 80 seconds of a five on three power play where the Sharks just were unable to find their offensive execution. Antti Niemi was good in the net tonight making 23 saves in two periods before being pulled for Thomas Greiss in the 3rd period (by design). The Sharks also had an early scare as a puck bounced under Joe Pavelskli’s visor. Pavelski however did not sustain any serious injury and shortly returned to the game.
Recapping The Final Regular Season Contest:
Kings Setting Early Tone - The Kings who came fast out of the starting block Thursday Night again got the jump on the Sharks for a good deal of the first period after turning away an early charge by team teal. LA net minder Quick was under attack early turning away point blank attempts from Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Martin Havlet, with Havlet’s attempt actually beating Quick but hitting the post. Once this effort was turned away, the Kings started to assert themselves and spent a lot of time keeping the puck out of their zone while challenging the Sharks deep in their zone. After the first 1:06 of the first period the Sharks were out shooting LA 3-0, for the remaining 18:54 of the period the Kings would out shoot team teal 15-2.
The Kings continued pressure on the Sharks would soon force a penalty out of the hosts as Havlet would draw a slashing penalty. This did not bode well for team teal as they watched the Kings go 3 for 5 on the power play just two nights earlier. Unfortunately this would not work out any better for the Sharks as despite their best efforts to kill the penalty, LA would find the back of the net 95 seconds into the power play chance as Justin Williams would notch his third power play goal in his last four periods versus the Sharks to give the Kings a 1-0 lead with 8:51 remaining in the first period. Williams redirected a feed pass from Jared Stoll into the net as Niemi was caught sliding away from where the rubber biscuit was heading.
Niemi would face more shots from the Kings on his net however managed to save 14 of the 15 shots he would face. Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Trevor Lewis and Rob Scuderi would be amongst those who would feed Niemi a steady diet of vulcanized rubber, however Niemi stood tall on the saddle and kept team teal in the game. With 4:30 remaining in the period Patrick Marleau had a break away chance from the left slot however his shot just missed the net.
Opportunities Knocked- The Sharks would enter the second period with a little more jump as they tried to be fair and give Quick his own steady diet of vulcanized rubber. Just 44 seconds in the the second frame Pavelski taking a feed pass from Marleau drilled a point blank shot the Quick initially struggled with however hung on to for the save. Quick would later have to fend off a shot from Marleau from the left point. Though Quick gave up a sizable rebound, nobody was in the slot for the Sharks and the Kings were able to clear the puck away. Quick would later face a still challenge from Justin Braun and Tommy Wingles. Braun was in a good position near the goal crease forcing the LA net minder to dive towards the puck. Wingles would end up with the puck and launch a hard back handed shot that Quick saved, though barely.
Later in the period team teal would get a golden chance when LA’s Jordan Nolan was called for a slashing penalty. About 50 seconds later Michael Richards upped the ante when he decided to try and make Couture part of the signage along the boards, just as Kyle Clifford did this past Thursday Night. Amazingly, Richards was only given two minutes for what probably should have been a five minute infraction. Couture was not injured though, and the Sharks had 82 seconds of a two man advantage which set team teal up nicely to get the game tying goal.
With 82 seconds of a five on three advantage, the Sharks did a lot of passing but never got a shot on goal as the Kings defenders were able to confound the Sharks by flooding shooting lanes giving Quick a good line of site for all incoming pucks, which turned out to be very few. As the five on three advantage for the Sharks dissipated, so would the rest of the power play. To make matters worse, Havlet would get whistled for a tripping penalty just before the team teal power play had officially run out. With the Kings going back on the power play, again they would make the Sharks pay for their own inability to covert golden opportunities. Richards, freshly out of the penalty box after pancaking Couture would tip in a rebound of a drilled a slap shot from Mitchell at the right point that would put LA up 2-0. With the period ending, you had to wonder what the Sharks state of mind was as they had not only lost a chance to tie the game but fell even further behind just a moment later.
Boyling Point Part I- The Sharks and Kings would start the third period with some four on four action after both teams were assessed two minute minors towards the end of the second period. The Sharks would get the crowd back into the game early as Boyle scored the first of his two goals just 38 seconds into the period as his wrister beat Quick who seemed a little surprised by Boyle’s shot. Boyle took a feed pass from Havlet after Burns dropped the puck off to him. Boyle received the puck and was all by himself in the slot and took the shot that caught Quick off guard. With the Sharks back in the game team teal started to pick up the slack. Quick found himself under siege as both Michal Handzus and Andrew Desjardins each nearly scored the game tying goal just a few seconds later.
The Greiss Is Right- Meanwhile on the other end of the ice Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan replaced Niemi with Greiss which was planned so the Sharks back-up net minder would see some action before the start of the post season. Greiss did not disappoint as he accepted McLellan’s challenge to “come on down” and kept the Kings off of the scoreboard while facing just six shots on goal thanks in part to the Sharks tightening up their defense. Greiss’ best save of the game came with 16:22 remaining in the period as he stone the Kings’ Williams who was denied on his attempt to stuff the puck in the Sharks goal after taking a perfect feed pass from LA’s Dwight King. Griess was probably the coolest customer on the ice during a hectic third period as well as in the overtime.
Another “30″ for Marleau- The Sharks had another power play chance when the Kings Matt Greene decided to try his luck and board a Shark. Green was caught, got a two minute minor for his efforts. However, Greene can thank Marleau for his stay in the penalty box being a short one…about 14 seconds to be exact. Off of a faceoff Pavelski dropped the puck off to Marleau who carried the rubber biscuit towards the point, then through a wrist shot towards the net where there was amazingly little traffic except for Quick. The puck would sail over Quick and into the back of the net giving the Sharks a tie at 2-2 and a new game. The goal was Marleau’s 30th of the year as he continues to write history in the Sharks record book. His 30th goal came at a time where it was much needed after team teal trailed for most of the game. Marleau would launch another hard shot on goal from the left point just a moment later however that puck was snagged by Quick.
Greiss was kept busy on his end of the ice as both Doughty and Richardson would do their best to dent the back of the team teal net however to no avail. Both teams would start exchanging blows just as they did at the Staples Center a few nights earlier with both goalies doing their best to keep the game even. The Sharks had a shot to win the game late in regulation but were denied when Pavelskli’s point blank shot hit the post with 1:04 remaining. Pavelski had a free run towards the Kings’ goal and took a feed pass from Joe Thornton out of the corner. Pavelski beat Quick, but could not beat the post.
Boyling Point Part II- A game between these two teams they way that had been going for much of the contest had that feeling of a three point game and the suspense that comes with it (which makes it all the more the shame that the Coyotes had won early to wrap up the Pacific Division). The Sharks carried the play for almost the entire overtime period as they held LA without a single shot on goal. With just over a minute remaining in the overtime period Boyle carried the puck up ice before dropping off to Havlet. It would be Havlet who would then feed the puck back to Boyle near the slot. From there Boyle backhanded a shot that got past Quick and into the net to give the Sharks a hard fought victory and in the end the Western Conference 7th seeding in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs starting later in the week.
Game Analysis- The positive for this game and really the last two games of this season is that the Sharks won both games in “come from behind” fashion, something that has been lacking for much of the 2011-12 campaign. The Sharks once again held up to a hard test against an instate rival who cannot be accused of not “Bringing It”. The LA Kings will be a tough out in the post season and will give Vancouver all they can handle. During the last two games it was the Kings who gave the Sharks all they could handle and threw everything at team teal short of the kitchen sink. Boyle was clutch tonight with his two goals, Marleau came up big of course. Niemi had 23 saves in the first two periods and kept the Sharks in this game. Don’t read anything into McLellan pulling him after two periods tonight, it was simply to give Niemi a much deserved breather before the post season. Greiss stood tall in relief of Niemi and took care of business, showing the Sharks and the league he is a viable back up goalie.
What didn’t work tonight was the power play, in particular the five on three advantage for over 80 seconds. It seemed during that stretch of play in the second period team teal was seemingly was not on the same page as to how they were going to get set and just kept passing the puck to one another. The Sharks if they are fortunate enough to get another opportunity like this in the playoffs are going to have to find ways to execute these opportunities. If you are not able to execute on some of these chances, they opponent is likely to take you to task and will not be afraid to take chances that they may not take otherwise. This is an area that must be improved somehow before the playoffs start, and right now there is very little time for that.
The Sharks now with the regular season behind them will shift their focus to the St Louis Blues, who during the regular season swept the Sharks in all four meetings by a combined total composite score of 11-3. The Blues finished the regular season as the #2 seed in the Western Conference. The Sharks will have their hands full as the Blues try to continue their season long resurrection under Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. The Sharks will need to bring their A-Game to this upcoming series if they expect to as be competitive in it. The Blues will be heavily favored in this series which in someways should benefit Sharks. The Sharks to be successful in this situation maybe for them to realize as the 7th or 8th seed, you are in effect playing with “House Money”. It then becomes a matter of how good of a steward the Sharks are with “house money”… We shall see what happens later this week…
GO SHARKS!!! BEAT THE BLUES!!!
The King Shark
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