The NHL scheduled the finale of the top San Jose Sharks rivalry for Wednesday, Jan. 18. They captured the season series in the battle at the Los Angeles Kings.
The San Jose Sharks rivalry with the Los Angeles Kings is probably the best in the game right now. So naturally the NHL scheduled the fifth and final game to take place Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The Sharks and Kings have begun three seasons in a row head-to-head and ended the only season neither made the postseason together, too. Four of the last five other springs saw one go home at the other’s expense in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Thus, no two teams have played each other more over the past six seasons. Few have played each other as evenly, either.
Both have two postseason series wins. San Jose has the better head-to-head record (14-11) but also the humiliation of choking a 3-0 series lead. Additionally, it has just one Western Conference title during that time. By contrast, Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup after both its postseason rivalry wins.
It is foolish to have this rivalry played out before the All-Star break. What if they do not meet again in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs?
The NHL thought it best to save fans from epic battles with the Kings. However, it saved the washed-up Vancouver Canucks for the Sharks late in the season. Groundhog Day—their first head-to-head—will seem to repeat itself four more times by April 4. (That is fives games saved for 2/2 to 4/4…yawn.)
San Jose Sharks Rivalry Finale
At least the teams made this Pacific Division rivalry finale compelling. San Jose came in 2-1-1 vs. Los Angeles, which was 2-2-0. Thus, the winner really would take the season series.
The Sharks were without Logan Couture due to illness. Joonas Donskoi also remained out, so Tommy Wingels made a rare appearance on the ice. Even Ryan Carpenter saw just his fourth game all season.
Wingels did his best Couture imitation, scoring a goal on an odd-man rush. Micheal Haley continued his “torrid” scoring pace (three points in five games) after his cross-ice feed.
That goal came nearly 10 minutes after the Kings had tied the game up. Tanner Pearson deflected a Derek Forbort shot past Martin Jones just 2:25 after falling behind.
Brent Burns gave San Jose the lead a mere 3:31 into the game. He took a Joe Thornton feed and sent it through traffic past Peter Budaj.
The Sharks finally broke through on the power play at precisely the midpoint of the game. Joe Pavelski buried the puck behind Budaj after Joel Ward deflected Thornton’s pass off the back boards.
Los Angeles scored in the final five minutes before intermission to close the deficit. Dustin Brown battled to get the puck to Kyle Clifford, and Marion Gaborik put home the weak-side rebound.
However, San Jose battened down the hatches in the third period. Only five shots got through to Jones, and he turned them all aside.
Jones was outstanding above his .917 save percentage. He made two absolutely jaw-dropping saves among his 22 and had no chance on either goal allowed.
Jones improved to 6-2-2 against his former team. He has a .922 save percentage and 2.19 goals-against average in those 10 starts. He was also 4-1, .912 and 2.18 in five playoff starts last April.
Ten wins in 15 games is the reason Jones has all rivalry starts since switching teams. Hopefully, he gets a rest at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday.
The Sharks had a modest event summary statistical edge: 31-34 faceoffs, 5-10 giveaways, 4-3 takeaways, 27-27 hits, 27-24 shots, 53-54 attempts and 17-10 blocks.
San Jose is now half a game behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division. It is also just half a game ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Meanwhile, the Kings are in a virtual tie with the Nashville Predators for the final wild card. The Calgary Flames are half a game ahead of them but three games behind the Oilers in the Pacific Division.