The Sharks were given quite the scare, nearly blowing a three-goal lead, but they held on late to down the Los Angeles Kings 3-2.
As the saying goes: a win is a win. That statement held true for the San Jose Sharks, who escaped the SAP Center with a 3-2 victory despite a very poor third period against the Los Angeles Kings. Now, the Sharks are just one win away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.
For the first 42 minutes, the Sharks looked unbeatable.
They might have been as good as they have been all season on the power-play, going 3-for-4 on those opportunities, while blocking shots at a high rate with 25 on the night. They also fared much better in the face-off circle than in Game Three, winning 51 percent of draws.
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The first period was a fast-paced one, but the scoreboard didn’t show that as both teams were held at bay through the opening 20 minutes without a single penalty. Both teams were relentless though, and both goaltenders made some great saves in keeping things scoreless.
While the opening frame was back-and-forth and tightly contested, San Jose came out of the first intermission and played one of their best periods of the postseason so far in period two. Brent Burns got it going with a one-time, power-play goal on a very well-designed play and great look from Joel Ward. It was Burns’ second goal of the playoffs and Ward’s third helper.
Seven minutes later, Joe Pavelski continued his playoff tear, adding another goal, again on the man advantage, doubling the Sharks lead. Jumbo Joe Thornton was the one to find Pavelski parked in front of the crease, notching his second assist of the playoffs. The chemistry between these two has been remarkable to watch as the year has progressed. Patrick Marleau would tally the secondary assist on the goal, putting his playoff assist total at two.
The second intermission didn’t deter team teal’s momentum, as the Sharks came out and immediately extended their lead to three from the stick of the veteran Marleau for their third power-play goal of the game. Marleau earned his first goal of the playoffs on the silky backhanded shot that barely beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick who was sliding over from the other side of the crease.
That goal would finally get the Kings’ attention, as L.A. would immediately strike back with 17:11 left in third via Trevor Lewis. The goal, which was a bit controversial as it was reviewed for potential goaltender interference, came off a Luke Schenn slap-shot, bouncing off Lewis and into the net past Jones who was distracted by Lewis’ presence in front.
A Schenn slap-shot from the point would fly past Jones to add to the scoreboard a few short minutes later, cutting San Jose’s lead to one and putting team teal on the brink of a possibly disastrous late-game collapse. The final 17 minutes or so of the game felt like a Kings power-play, with L.A. firing shot-after-shot at Jones, who remained stout in ne. The Kings out-shot the Sharks 11-3 following Marleau’s goal with 18:20 remaining in the game.
This was clearly a huge win for the Sharks, who are one win away from downing their in-state rivals and advancing to the second round for the first time since 2013. Despite the scoring coming from the usual suspects, with the fourth-line forwards and four of Burns’ fellow five defenseman held in check on the scoresheet, this was an absolute team victory.
Nick Spaling in particular recovered from two awful games where he racked up four total penalties, putting two shots on net with three hits and over a minute of ice time on the crucial penalty kill. The fourth-line as a whole bounced back well, not taking any penalties and putting pressure on Quick all night long. The core of the team was once again great for the majority of the night, but the X-factor may have been the performance from guys like Spaling, Tommy Wingels, Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic tallied an assist and blocked five shots on the night.
Game Five will be Friday night at 7:30 PDT back at Staples Center, where the Kings will try to stave off elimination. The pressure is now on the Sharks to close out the series, so we’ll see how they react to another substantial series-lead.