Sharks Hold Serve Again- Joe Thornton and TJ Galiardi each scored goals and Antti Niemi made 24 saves to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in Game 6 of their Western Conference Semi-Finals series. The Sharks with the win have held serve before another extremely loud and proud crowd of over 17,000 at The Shark Tank and have swept all three games at home versus Los Angeles, and in doing so have forced a seventh and deciding game Tuesday Night. However, the Kings have so far won all three games played at the Staples Center and will have home ice for Game 7. The Sharks now need to find away to break the Staples Center jinx but only have to do it one time to advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings meanwhile probably didn’t want a Game 7 to happen but are now going home to a rink they’ve owned over the last two seasons in the post season, and currently hold a 12 game overall winning streak there. The Sharks and Kings was picked by many observers and prognosticators to go the distance, and it appears they pegged the length of the series exactly as it would ultimately go.
Another Fast Start- The Sharks just as they did in games’ three and four at The Shark Tank came out hard and fast. They were able to draw the Kings into three quick penalties in under a six minute span. The Kings’ Kyle Clifford was the first LA Kings’ player to arrive at the penalty box just 1:14 into the game for a charging penalty. The Sharks would not score on this power play however continued to build momentum from it. The Sharks would get one of the bigger breaks of the game moments later when the Kings’ Mike Richards (tripping) and Anze Kopitar (delay of game) would go the penalty box with 14 seconds of each other giving team teal a 1:46 five on three opportunity. The Kings penalty kill did their best down two men and were able to hold of the Sharks for about a minute before Thornton scored taking a feed pass from Joe Pavelski, who decoyed Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick into thinking he was about to shoot the puck. The Sharks would continue on the power play time for about 40 more seconds but could do not damage.
Early Anxious moments Soon after the Sharks took the lead their own penalty kill would get tested Dan Boyle would be whistled for high sticking. The Sharks had a few anxious moments as the Kings had three shots on goal that Niemi was able to turn away. One shot from the Kings’ Drew Doughty got by Niemi but hit the right post and bounced away. Niemi also made huge saves denying both Trevor Lewis and Clifford in the same sequence. The Sharks went the final 12 minutes of the first period without a shot on goal after enjoying an 8-2 shot advantage. Team teal was able to withstand a very strong Los Angeles forecheck which lasted from about the ten minute mark to the end of the period. The Kings would hit three posts total for the period, which was an extremely huge break for the Sharks too.
Rewards and Missed Opportunities- The second period for the Sharks was a tale of great rewards and great failures which they would have to weather the end result of for what turned out to be the rest of the game. TJ Galiardi taking a down ice pass from Scott Hannan drilled a slap shot that beat Quick to give team teal a 2-0 just over four minutes into the middle frame. Galiardi’s goal came as Quick appeared to be screened out by his own defenseman. Later the Sharks would get a huge opportunity to build on their lead as Justin Williams would draw a double minor penalty for a high stick which cut the lip of Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks now had four minutes of a man advantage to try and add to their two goal lead. However the combination of a tough Kings’ penalty kill combined with more passing and some indecision resulted in the Sharks not being able to take advantage of this golden opportunity. The Sharks would be held to just two shots on goal for the entire four minutes with Tommy Wingles getting the best chance for the Sharks, getting a point blank chance turned away by Quick with just seconds remaining in the power play.
Not even two minutes after the Sharks four minute power play expired the Kings would get back into the game as Los Angeles Captain Dustin Brown drilled on odd angle shot which rolled over Niemi and into the net with the assist going to Matt Green and Dwight. The Kings would keep the momentum for the remainder of the period and the Sharks would again struggle with the Los Angeles forecheck.
The Defense Never Rests- The third period was a period where the Sharks decided the best offense was probably their best defense. The Sharks kept the majority of their shifts short, many going 30-45 seconds in length. The Sharks did their best job of the series in shutting down the Kings’s forecheck and not allowing Los Angeles to build momentum by starting to cycle the puck. The Sharks were all over the ice and pursued the puck with reckless abandon knowing their very season was on the line. The Sharks held the Kings to just a eight shots on goal for the period while managing nine of their own despite not having the best scoring opportunities. With just over five minutes to go Patrick Marleau’s break away opportunity was the best Sharks scoring chance of the period, but it would go for not as Quick again slammed the door shut. Meanwhile Niemi saw some hard rubber coming in from Williams, Jeff Carter and Slava Voynov. Niemi each time was up to the task and made the saves necessary to allow the Sharks a chance to live and fight another day…that day being Tuesday Night in Los Angeles for Game 7.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of Game 6 were 3) TJ Galiardi; 2) Dan Boyle; and 1) Joe Thornton. Justin Braun seemed to receive a strange non-contact injury in the second period but returned late in the period and appeared to be okay. The Sharks welcome back Adam Burish who returned for the Sharks for the first time since breaking his right hand in Game 4 of the first round against Vancouver. Meanwhile one of the reasons the Kings have been so tough to beat is because haven’t allowed more than three goals in 32 straight playoff games, starting with last year’s run to the Stanley Cup…
Next Sharks Game- Tuesday Night May 28th at 6pm PT. Game 7, Sharks vs the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The Sharks are 0-5 this season counting regular season and playoffs at the Staples Center. The Sharks have a good history of winning Game 7’s on the road, 1994 in Detroit, 1995 in Calgary. The Sharks will be looking to make history again as they are in another “Must Win” game. This is a shot to not only knock off the defending Stanley Cup Champions who have not lost three games in a playoff series since 2011, this is a chance to make history that could lead to even more. The chance is there. The odds are against the Sharks being on the road however just remember one important old saying, “In Game 7 Anything Can Happen.” That phrase was coined for a reason.
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