The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are at it again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The same two teams battled two years ago when the Sharks took a 3-0 advantage and looked to cause a major upset. But then came their epic collapse – losing their next four games and ending their championship dreams.
To start their 2016 playoff run, they defeated their Southern California rivals by a final score of 4-3 at the Staples Center. San Jose were tight in defense most of the night and capitalized on the Kings’ mistakes while shifting home ice back into their favor. Have they learned from 2014? Does that series loss make them hungrier this time around? All of these factors will be played out throughout the course of the next week or two. But on this night, they took full advantage of their opportunities in the victory.
Game goes back and forth
But to start the game, the Kings' forechecking started early which pinned the Sharks deep in their own defensive zone. Tanner Pearson won possession of the puck down on the right boards. He skated towards the middle before finding Jake Muzzin on the left of the goal. Martin Jones was off his line and Muzzin tried to play a pass back towards Anze Kopitar. But instead, the puck deflected off of Tomas Hertl's skate and into his own net.
Los Angeles' lead did not last long though as the Sharks converted their first power play of the night. Traffic, from Patrick Marleu in front of Jonathan Quick, forced the netminder to not be able to see. Nonetheless, Joe Pavelski hit a wicked one-time slapshot that beat Quick glove-side. This goal from the visiting team increased their confidence.
The confidence with which they garnered allowed them to play their style of hockey. Marleu, with 4:40 left in the opening, hit a decent wrist shot, but it did not trouble Quick. Quick's save, the last of the period, ensured things would remain level at one.
In the second period, the first real opportunity came from the Kings on the man advantage. Tyler Toffoli had the puck inside the left circle and ripped a shot on goal. Kris Versteeg stood in front of Martin Jones, causing him to lose sight of the puck. Versteeg also managed to deflect the shot with his own stick redirecting the effort.
But then, the Sharks San Jose won a faceoff in their own offensive zone and the puck fell to Brent Burns. The Sharks man wasted no time rocketing a shot into the back of the net, shifting momentum.
That momentum, lasted only 40 seconds though. The Kings drew a penalty on the ensuing faceoff and capitalized on that mental error. Jeff Carter was going wide, working his way down low. He swept a pass back towards the middle but the pass took a couple of deflections. The initial deflection came off of Burns’ stick. Then it bounced off of Paul Martin before going behind Jones to tie things at two.
Los Angeles’ second goal of the second period was a shorthanded one. Trevor Lewis picked up the loose puck and skated down towards the other end. He slowed up a little to be able to shoot above a Sharks’ stick on the ground before taking the 3-2 lead.
Sharks take momentum late in second
But then, things were leveled once more 30 seconds later. Joonas Donski had his initial save stopped by Quick. The Los Angeles goalie, though, left a big rebound. Joe Ward was around the area but could not get his stick on the puck. But thankfully, Tomas Hertl made up for his previous blunder and snapped his shot high into the net.
Merely 17 seconds had come off the clock in the final period when Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead. The Kings iced a puck early which forced a faceoff in their defensive zone. Pavelski won the faceoff at the right circle, playing it back to Justin Braun. Braun played a pass into space and the captain was able to maintain possession as he got in front of Anze Kopitar. He continued to wrap around the net before beating Quick low at the far post.
These same two teams, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, will meet at the Staples Center again on Saturday night at 10:30 PM Est.