King Raffi- Raffi Torres at one time was the most hated man in San Jose since Ed Belfour. Dating back to his days with the Edmonton Oilers, Torres was not on the top everyone’s Christmas card list. He wasn’t highly thought of on Thanksgiving or Easter either. However, Torres has dawned the Sharks teal since an April 3rd trade from the Phoenix Coyotes. Tuesday Night he won over 17,000 plus spectators at the Shark Tank. Scoring the only goal in the shootout, Torres’ game winning tally gave the Sharks a hard earned and hard fought victory over the defending Champion Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The win for the Sharks is huge as it gives them two points in the Western Conference Standings to tie team teal with the Kings with 53 points. The Kings still hold the tie breaker between the two teams, however each point the Sharks pick up in the standings will go a long way towards securing a post season birth in this lockout shortened 48 game season. Seeding is not as much a concern for the Sharks as long as they are able to get to the post season.
Goals from Brent Burns and TJ Galiardi gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead midway through second period as they scored just 42 seconds apart from each other. However turnovers and penalty trouble would allow the Kings to get back into the contest and make the Sharks work for the win as Los Angeles was a dominant player for a good portion of the evening.
Niemi vs Quick- Antti Niemi, coming off of a 35 shot shutout performance in Phoenix just 24 hours earlier, would get another tough challenge against the Kings. Niemi would need to stop 11 Kings’ shots on goal and had a few close shaves. Niemi’s best saves of the opening period came against Dustin Penner, who had drilled a shot that hit Niemi glove and bounced over the glass. The other hard shot came from the stick of Anze Kopitar who at close range was not able to drill his shot past Niemi. Jonathan Quick meanwhile made nine saves for the period as the Sharks were held at bay in part thanks to a tough defense from the Kings. The two netminders would take their dual into the second period and again both teams would miss scoring chances despite the Kings carrying much of the play in the middle period.
Middle Ground- The Sharks would give the Kings an early scare as Scott Hannan’s shot from the left point seemed to jar Quick, however he recovered. Galiardi meanwhile was able to get control of the puck and skated around the net before getting a shot on Quick. The Kings netminder made the save again in traffic. The Kings would then try to push the momentum towards the Sharks side of the ice and keep team teal on the defensive. This kept Niemi busy again both early and ofter. Later in the period, the Kings would make a costly mistake as Burns would pick pocket Penner against the boards in the Los Angeles defensive zone. Burns would then drill a wrist shot that beat Quick to give the Sharks the lead. Just 42 seconds later, Galiardi would give team teal a two goal lead has he took a perfect feed pass from Burns and was able to get just enough of the puck to knock it passed a stunned Quick.
Just a short time later the Sharks would however find themselves in some serious penalty trouble. Two Sharks, Galiardi and Jason Demers found the were called for penalties just 45 seconds apart giving the Kings a golden 5 on 3 man advantage for 75 long seconds. The Sharks penalty kill units would come up huge during the two man disadvantage. Niemi would make three saves on Mike Richards alone. The team teal penalty kill unit successfully managed to kill off the two man disadvantage. However, the Sharks were not able to kill off the entire penalty. With a one man advantage still inn effect, Jake Muzzin was able to find an open shooting lane from near the front of the blue line and drilled a 55 foot slap shot the got past Niemi to bring the Southern California visitors to within a goal with 6:01 remaining in the period.
Later the Sharks would find themselves in a four on four situation where Tommy Wingles went to the penalty box along with the Kings’ Brad Richardson for coinciding roughing minors. Just a moment later the Kings with their Captain Dustin Brown carrying the puck up ice would pass it to Kopitar once they entered the Sharks defensive zone. Kopitar would launch a shot on goal that Niemi would save. However Niemi failed to control the puck or rebound and Brown came in from behind Kopitar to jam the rubber biscuit to tie the game towards the end of the second period. Some of the Sharks on the ice and in the bench area thought the officials should have called the play dead since it had appeared that Niemi had control of the puck. The officiating crew saw it differently and the game was tied.
Tight the Rest of the Way- The third period was a very tense and tight period for the Sharks as they again found themselves having to battle for every opportunity they would get. The Kings carried a good deal of the play in the final period. Niemi however was on top of his game and looking to rebound from the previous period. Niemi would hold up nicely in making 12 more saves, including the save that likely saved this game for team teal. Joe Thornton who rarely makes gross errors, on a pass attempt from behind his own net saw to his horror the puck being intercepted by Dwight King. Once in possession of the puck King drilled a point blank slap shot that Niemi saved. Later the Sharks would have an opportunity to take a lead when Rob Scuderi turned over the puck to Wingles deep in the Kings territory. Both Wingles and Torres tried to fire close range shots past Quick but to no avail. With just over seven minutes remaining Burns hard slap shot which was saved by Quick also. The game would go into overtime and ultimately to a shootout period.
The Shootout- Niemi had to come up huge in the shootout if the Sharks were going to get the extra point in the Western Conference Standings which would tie them with LA. Niemi had to take on Jeff Carter in addition to Koptiar and Richards. Niemi was able to get the saves on Carter and Koptiar. After getting saves on Dan Boyle and Couture, it was Quick that would have to face the newly acquired Raffi Torres. Going into the game, Torres in his career was 4 for 11 in shootouts. Torres was able to beat Quick five-hole to give the lead in the shootout. Next up for the Kings was Mike Richards. However Niemi was ready for him and poke checked away Richard’s attempt to tie the Shootout period.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were 3) Jonathan Quick (LA); 2) Brent Burns (SJS); and 1) Antti Niemi. Quick made 33 saves on the evening while Niemi had 39. Joe Thornton officially picked up his 500th career assist on Garliardi’s goal. Ever since Niemi’s awful start in the game in Dallas this past Saturday (2 goals in just over 5 minutes given up), Niemi has allowed on two goals in his last 129 minutes in the net. The Sharks in a rare move wore their road white sweaters for this home game. The story is the Sharks granted the Kings permission to wear their black uniforms for this game only.
Sharks Next Game- The Sharks next game is Thursday Night 7:30pm PT as the Minnesota Wild invade the Shark Tank. The game will be carried nationally on NBC Sports Network. It will also be carried by CSN Calif and the Sharks Radio Network (98.5 SJ/102.1 SF) …
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