342 Days Later- Logan Couture scored two goals, Brent Burns added a goal and an assist as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings at the Shark Tank Thursday Night 4-3. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi also came up big with 34 saves. For the Sharks, this was only their eighth win in regulation this season and 12th overall in 26 games. This was also the Los Angeles Kings first visit to the Sharks Tank in 342 days, since April 7th 2012 also known as the final day of last year’s regular season. The Sharks have not seen the Kings since their Southern California neighbors made NHL history last season and went on to a phenomenal hot streak that carried them to the Stanley Cup Title. In this truncated season the Sharks and Kings find themselves battling for playoff position as they did last year. The win for the Sharks did not come easily as they had to fight off a furious Kings comeback in the last six and change to hold on to the lead.
An Early Challenge From the Champs- The Kings carried a good part of the play in the opening period and let Sharks Goalie Antti Niemi know early on it was going to be a very busy night in the net. Niemi earned his keep making 16 saves as the Kings were almost camped out on the Sharks defensive side of the ice for the better part of the opening period. The Sharks penalty kill would also be tested early after Patrick Marleau was called for tripping. The penalty kill units though took care of business and held the Kings to two shots on goal and basically no other damage done. Niemi stopped point blank attempts from Jared Stoll and Justin Williams. Later the Sharks in the Kings defensive zone made the most of an opportunity where Marleau launched a long slap shot from the left point that rebounded to Couture. Quick was able to stuff Couture’s scoring attempt, however could not control the rebound. Burns collected the juicy rebound 12 feet from the goal and drilled it past Quick to give team teal the lead with 8:51 remaining in the opening period. Just seconds after the Sharks took the lead, Niemi stood tall in the net again by denying Brown twice on back to back shots, either of which could have easily gone in.
The remainder of the period did see the Sharks get a few more chances while the Kings continued their assault on Niemi who answered the bell each and every time. Two more point blank attempts by the King’s Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar were turned away as Niemi saw the puck well all evening. Quick also was on top of his game as the Sharks ended the period with Marleau just missing a short handed scoring chance when Quick poke checked the puck away. A holding penalty to Tommy Wingles would carry over into the second period, however the Sharks again were successful on their penalty kill.
Middle Men- The Kings even after the penalty to Wingles had ended were still applying some pressure but could not sustain it. Soon after the Sharks would start to assert themselves as the aggressor which soon frustrated the champs. After delivering a punishing hit to the Kings’ Colin Fraser, Andrew Desjardins found himself in a scrap with Jake Muzzin which ended up costing the Kings. Muzzin was given additional penalties for being an instigator and fighting with a visor to give team teal a four minute double minor opportunity. The Sharks would jump on this opportunity as Matt Irwin would get the first of what turned out to be two power play goals in this sequence, drilling a puck top shelf over Quick. On the second half of the double minor, Couture scored his first of two goals on the evening drilling a 63 foot slapshot past Quick after taking a feed pass from Joe Thornton. The Sharks now had a three goal advantage over the Kings as the end result. Also, Kings coach Darryl Sutter would replace Quick with backup goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Moments later, Justin Braun was called for a hooking penalty giving the defending champions their third power play opportunity of the evening. In a strange sequence, the Sharks came away from the draw with an excellent chance at a short handed goal when Adam Burish just missed after taking a pretty good feed pass from Michal Handzus. The puck then on the same sequence took a Kings’ bounce over to Justin Williams who would take the rubber biscuit back up the ice. Once into the Sharks defensive zone Williams passed the puck over to Kopitar, who in return fed it to Brown in the left wing area. Brown drilled a wrist shot that beat Niemi and the Sharks penalty killing unit to cut the deficit to 3-1. Seconds after the Kings power play goal the Sharks nearly retook a three goal lead when Ryane Clowe had two point blank chances at Bernier who made the both saves. After being outshot 16-6 in the opening period, the Sharks managed to outshoot Los Angeles 15-7 in the middle period.
A Good Start Before The Drama- All season the third period has been at times less than kind to the Sharks. However, in this game the Sharks would take advantage of a very huge early opportunity. This chance was created when Burns stole the puck from Drew Doughty inside the Los Angeles defensive zone. Burns took the puck towards Bernier before passing it over to Couture who was flanked to Burns’ left. Couture’s wrister easily beat Bernier to give the Sharks a 4-1 lead just 27 seconds into the final frame. The Sharks from here did their best to play “rope-a-dope” with the Kings and for the most part were successful. However, the defending champions refused to go down without a fight and later in the period would make a game of it. With 6:12 remaining the Kings Captain Brown would drill a wrister past Niemi to make a 4-2 game. Just under three minutes later the Kings scored again when Dwight King punched in a loose puck past Niemi. The final 200 seconds of the game were fairly uncomfortable for most Sharks fans as the Kings were controlling the puck late and getting a few more looks at it before time ran out. The Sharks hardly ever cleared the puck in the final seconds from their defensive zone, but sill managed to hang on.
Shark Bytes- The 3 Stars of the Game: 3) Dustin Brown (Kings), 2) Logan Couture, and 1) Brent Burns. Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan gets career win 207, passing Ron Wilson as the Sharks all time Winningest Head Coach The last time the Sharks scored four goals in a game was Jan 26th at the Shark Tank in a 4-1 win over Vancouver. The Kings outshoot team teal 37-28. The game in Los Angeles this coming Saturday Night is the first of five straight on the road. The Sharks will have 11 of their final 17 games at the Shark Tank. Most games will be must wins. The NHL on Tuesday announced re-alignment of the league after this season. More of that will be covered in a later article.
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