Apr 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) clears the puck away from goalie Antti Niemi (31) during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Sharks Drop Season Finale in LA, Will Play Vancouver in 1st Round of SCP

Sharks Plead The Sixth- Justin Williams scored what proved to be the game winning goal with eight minutes remaining in the final period as the Los Angeles Kings downed the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in the Regular Season Finale at the Staples Center Saturday night. The Sharks with the regulation loss fall to the sixth seed in the Western Conference and as the result with face the third seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to begin later this week. The Canucks will host the first two games in Vancouver with the dates to be announced after the conclusion of Sunday’s Ottawa-Boston game. The Sharks are making their ninth straight post season appearance and are rematched against the team who beat them in the Western Conference Finals two years ago. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings meanwhile will be facing the St Louis Blues in the first round of the upcoming post season tournament as the Kings took the number five seed with their victory.

Game 48 Recap- The Sharks and Kings spent the first period being playoff sparing partners for one another as each team had a handful of scoring chances but almost did do much else otherwise. Both teams had eight shots on goal. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi made some strong and impressive saves off of the Kings’ Jordan Nolan, Taylor Toffoli and Jeff Carter. Not to be outdone, Niemi’s counterpart Jonathan Quick handled some close range shots on goal from Raffi Torres and Brent Burns. After a scoreless stalemate in the opening period, the Sharks and Kings would trade goals in the first 97 seconds of the second period.

The Kings would dent the scoreboard first needing just 48 seconds of the period to do so. Kyle Clifford would drill a high wrist shot that hit Niemi’s glove high and bounced off of it. The velocity of the rubber biscuit would carry it over Niemi’s shoulder and into the net. Clifford followed Anzi Kopitar who let the change into the Sharks defensive end of the ice and gave his teammate a perfect behind the back feed pass. Less than a minute later Logan Couture would tie the game for the Sharks with a goal that will certainly be on his personal highlight reel. Couture took the puck from TJ Galiardi at the blue line and carried the rubber biscuit into the Kings defensive zone. From there, Couture masterfully maneuvered the puck though the LA gauntlet of Trevor Lewis, Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi before wristing it past a surprised Quick top shelf to tie the game. Couture then went to the glass and let a few Kings fans know that this was they paid for when they bought their seats for behind the Los Angeles goal.

Not too long after Couture’s goal however the Kings would find a way to regain the lead. With the Kings setting up a scoring chance in the Sharks defensive zone, Voynov would take a cross ice feed pass from Scuderi near the blue line and drill a slap shot that may have slightly deflected off of James Sheppard’s skate and past Niemi. Los Angeles would go on to outshoot team teal 14-7 in the middle period and carried much of the play. In the third period the Sharks would carry a good portion of the play however were not able to make the most of their scoring chances. Midway through the period Dan Boyle would hit the right post on a shot that Quick could not snag out of the air. Moments later the Kings would increase their lead to two as Williams scored point blank Niemi after taking a perfect feed pass from Richardson who was behind the team teal goal.

The Sharks would get a late goal from TJ Galiardi to bring team teal back to within one with 2:26 remaining but could get no closer as time ran out. Galiardi’s goal was a tip in of a point blank attempt by Joe Pavelski on Quick. The scoring chance was born from a forced Kings turnover inside of their defensive zone when Justin Braun stole the puck from the stick of Dustin Penner. Burns had the other assist on Galiardi’s goal. With the loss the Sharks close the 48 game truncated season with an overall mark of 25-16-7 and 57 points in the Western Conference Standings. With the conclusion of the game, the Sharks immediately turned their focus to the Vancouver Canucks.

Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were all members of the LA Kings, 3) Brad Richardson; 2) Jonathan Quick, and 1) Kyle Clifford. Scott Gomez missed this game with an upper body injury and is day to day. During the broadcast tonight Sharks broadcasters Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda mentioned that Logan Couture with only four penalty minutes for the entire season would be an ideal candidate for the “Lady Bing”. The Sharks broadcasters also hosted Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Miller who does the TV play by play for the Los Angeles Kings. Being the the Sharks are the lower seeded team, they will get to host Game’s 3, 4 and 6 in San Jose. The Sharks only could get home ice in a series if they played either Detroit or Minnesota at any point in the post season, providing ofcourse that team teal beats Vancouver. In Minnesota’s case, that would require one of the biggest upset’s in post season against top seeded Chicago. The Columbus Blue Jackets despite a strong bid missed the post season finishing as the ninth place team in the Western Conference despite being tied with the Minnesota Wild with 55 points. Minnesota gets the tie breaker based on the “Total number of Regulation plus Overtime Wins”, aka the ROW stat. Minnesota had 22. Columbus 19. The Blue Jackets will move to the Eastern Conference next season because of realignment.

Next Sharks Game- The Sharks will travel to Vancouver, BC for the first two games of the Western Conference Quarter Final Series. The dates and times should be known sometime Sunday evening….

….and now the Second Season and the Quest for that elusive Stanley Cup begins (again)…

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