Sharks Take The Opener
The San Jose Sharks got goals from six different players and survived a furious third period comeback in a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.
The Sharks with the win take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series as they opened their 2014 quest for the Stanley Cup. Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the game as the Sharks jumped out to a 5-0 in the first two periods before another full house at the Shark Tank.
Despite the big lead, the Sharks’ win was anything but easy as the Kings sent a late message to Team Teal that this will be a tough series throughout. A game that looked like a laugher through two periods become an unexpected nail biter late. However in the end Team Teal would find a way to hang on and secure the opening game victory.
The Sharks put five goals on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for the third time in his career, and for the second time in a playoff game scenario.
Two Games In One
Both teams had exchanged excellent scoring chances in the first 31 seconds of the game as both Niemi and Quick had to make came up with huge early saves. Just a few moments later, Sharks Captain Joe Thornton was able to take a feed pass from Joe Pavelski near the goal crease and slide the puck past Quick to give Team Teal a 1-0 lead at the 3:01 mark of the opening period.
The Sharks and Kings would spar for much of the period with the Sharks showing a strong forecheck during the opening stanza. Team Teal would close out the opening frame in style as Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals inside of the final minute. Marleau’s goal was the result of a perfect feed pass from Matt Nieto with just three seconds left before the end of the period.
The Sharks continued to push the envelope in the second period as again their forecheck effectively allowed them to control the play on both ends of the ice. Raffi Torres, who was not allowed to play in last season’s playoff series following a league suspension, atoned for it with a goal at the 12:57 mark of the middle stanza to put Team Teal up by four goals. Torres got the puck right on his stick after he took the rebound of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot that hit the post.
The Sharks, between the start of the period and Torres’ goal, hit three posts on Quick, with the other two coming on shots from Pavelski. Vlasic however would ultimately not be denied as moments later he put the Sharks up by five with a power play goal. The Sharks just missed another three-goal period when Quick made a save on a Logan Couture breakaway just a moment later.
The final period, however, was the polar opposite of the first two periods as the Los Angeles Kings, to their credit, showed their resolve as a team.
If nothing else, LA reminded the Sharks of how they also got to the post season. Goals by Jake Muzzin and Slava Voynov in the first seven minutes of the period got Los Angeles to within reasonable striking distance at 5-2. At the 13:59 mark of the period a Jeff Carter shot on goal deflected off of the leg of Trevor Lewis in front of the Sharks goal crease. The puck got past Niemi who never saw the deflection off of Lewis, and just like that LA was within two with still six minutes remaining.
The Kings would go on to outshoot the Sharks 16-5 in the period as San Jose just could not maintain any sustained possessions while LA was suddenly the dominant forechecking team. The game was actually a nail bitter late as Niemi made 13 saves for the period, each of which turned out to be huge. Martin Jones came in to replace Jonathan Quick in the third period and would see minimal action as the Sharks were busy on defense for most of the period.
With the Kings pulling Jones for an extra attacker late, Brent Burns was able to finally get ahold of a loose puck in his own zone and blast it towards the empty net with just under a minute remaining. The puck found the back of the abandoned cage to secure the Sharks’ Game 1 victory.
Game 1 Analysis
Winning the first game in any playoff series is always a good start.
The Sharks had great energy out of the gates and were clearly ready for the Kings. In the first two periods, Team Teal was able to do what they needed to do and build a lead that would ultimately sustain them for the duration of the contest. Every goal the Sharks scored in this game mattered as the final result would show. The Sharks did struggle in the third period as LA was able to make adjustments as the Kings simply took to the ice as a desperate team with nothing else to lose. This period the way it played out could give the Kings some momentum going into Game 2 Sunday night.
Keep in mind that it is always good to win the opener of any playoff series. At the same time, keep in mind that this is a best of seven series and the Sharks need to beat Jonathan Quick and the LA Kings four times. The Sharks’ work in this series has only just begun and there is a long way to go. If the Sharks understand that this will be a fire fight throughout they will be better served for it. Now let’s see if the Sharks can maintain this momentum as we head into Game 2 Sunday night (Easter Sunday).
Game 2 Next- Sunday Night 7:30pm PDT and can on CSN-CA and NBC Sports Network. The game can also be heard along the Sharks Radio Network.