Meet Mr Clutch- Patrick Marleau is known for holding many of the San Jose Sharks franchise scoring records. However what he has done recently could make him even more famous than ever before. Marleau managed the Sharks only shot on goal in the overtime period, which as it turned out was all they would need. Marleau’s 15th career game winning post season goal at 6:20 of sudden death overtime gave Team Teal a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. With the win the Sharks grab a stranglehold in their best of seven series as they now own a commanding 3-0 lead. Thursday night the Sharks have a chance to close out this series and move on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Of all of Patrick Marleau’s career playoff goals, the game winner here was the fourth of his career to happen in a sudden death overtime scenario. It also could not have come at a better time as the Kings dominated the overtime period and missed on a couple of close range opportunities to win the game before Marleau’s heroics. The win also marks Team Teal’s first win at the Staples Center since New Years Day of 2011, regular season or playoffs.
Game 3’s Ups and Downs- The Los Angeles Kings held true to a vow to come out even better in this game then in the first two in San Jose. The Kings came out aggressive and did what they could to assert themselves early on. However it would be the Sharks who would draw first blood as Brent Burns would get the Sharks on the board just 3:16 into the first period on a power play goal. Antti Niemi would make eight saves in the first period including a pair on the Kings’ Mike Richards and Anze Koptiar. Meanwhile Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, who has been under siege for most of the series stood tall in the net after Burns early goal. The second period saw the Sharks make their first real mistake of the series when Jason Demers was called for a delay of game penalty early. This happened when Demers who was trying to clear the puck out of the Sharks zone instead sent the rubber biscuit into the Kings bench. The two minute minor penalty to Demers would result in a major pain for the Sharks as Jarret Stoll would score Los Angeles’ first power play goal of the series just a moment later. Just three minutes later the Sharks would fall behind for the first time in the series when Marian Gaborik skated around the Team Teal defense and would lift the puck top shelf past Niemi to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.
Just as the Staples Center crowd was still buzzing over Gaborik’s highlight reel goal, the Sharks were soon able to find a way to quiet the Staples buzz. With the Sharks holding the puck in the LA defensive zone, from behind the net Marleau was able to get the puck to Demers who launched a shot towards Quick. The rubber biscuit seemed to knuckleball but had enough to get to Matt Nieto’s stick and deflect into the Kings goal as Quick missed on his diving attempt to make the save. Towards the end of the period James Sheppard would draw a roughing penalty that put the Sharks again on the penalty kill. Team Teal managed to kill off the first 62 seconds of the penalty which ended the middle frame but could not complete the kill at the start of the third period. Just as it looked as if the Sharks might get the penalty kill, the Kings’ Kopitar was able to drill a wrist shot that hit the stick of Jeff Carter which caused the puck to spin and bounce past Niemi giving Los Angeles the 3-2 lead. The Sharks still had well over 19 minutes to work with in the third period but also knew they would have to earn it if they wanted to tie this game.
Team Teal would certainly have their chances with two power plays shortly after the Kings’ go ahead goal but could not find a way to get any rubber past Quick. However this did not detour the Sharks who managed to get 12 pucks past Quick in over five periods leading into this game. Towards the end of the second power play opportunity the Sharks were able to create a scrum around the Kings’ goal and all of a sudden Quick could not get a handle on the puck. Tomas Hertl, playing his first game at Staple Center since the Dustin Brown incident back on December 19th, got a measure of payback and poetic justice as he hammered away and battled Quick for the puck. On the second rebound of the puck off of a sprawled out Quick, Hertl was able to hammer the rubber biscuit into the back of the net to tie the game a 3-3. The Sharks had a golden power play opportunity at the end of the third period thanks to a foolish penalty by the Kings’ Stoll, but could not get anything past Quick despite their best efforts.
Then came the overtime and all those narrow misses by the Kings to win the game. Then came the one chance the gassed Sharks would get over six minutes into the overtime. Then came the feed pass from Scott Hannan. Then came Marleau who was in the right place at the exact right time. This time Marleau with a backhander did not miss.
Game 3 Analysis- As expected the Los Angeles Kings delivered on their promise to play this game as if their was no tomorrow and to their credit they held true to that form. To the Sharks credit, they expected the Kings to do exactly that and were able to anticipate it. This game was not going to be a blow out as the first two games at the Shark Tank were. The Kings are simply too good of a team to let that happen on their home ice. The Sharks knew they were going to be in a fight and they got one. The Sharks also knew they could survive this fight if they stuck to what got them into this position in the first place. Niemi was again solid in the net when he had to be, especially in those anxious moments in overtime. The Sharks looked in the overtime like they may have been gassed which made the timing of Marleau’s game winner key. It may have been their best and only shot to take this game. The Sharks did not have a shot on goal in the overtime period until Marleau’s game winner. For the Sharks in Game 3, they were able to keep the Kings in their sights and continued to keep the pressure on Quick for most of the evening. They payoff when it finally came was just all that much sweeter for Team Teal.
Game 4- The Sharks will now go for what was entirely unexpected going into this series, a possible sweep of the mighty Los Angeles Kings. The game is Thursday Night (4/24) at 7:30pm PDT at the Staples Center. The game can be seen on CSN-CA, NBCSN and CBC. The game can be also heard along the Sharks Radio Network.