Sharks at Kings: Raise the Banner Again!
Back in the building after a short Christmas break! Focus? Not a problem.
The Kings came out strong early. Alec Martinez had two great chances, one from the right circle and another in tight off a 2-on-1. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi had to come up big twice in the first two minutes, but then Justin Williams bungled a breakout, his pass hitting Joe Thornton, who quickly turned and handed it off to Joe Pavelski. Pavelski didn’t get much power on the shot, but the puck still snuck past Jonathan Quick to put the Sharks up 1-0 on their first shot of the game.
The overhead is clearer about where the puck beats Quick. It’s not the best moment for him.
Instead of letting the Sharks build any momentum off good fortune, the Kings simply improved as the period continued. They controlled 70 percent of possession in the first, out-attempting the Sharks 26-11.
A wonderful shift from the Pearson-Lewis-Toffoli line eventually tied the game. The Sharks controlled the face-off, but Pearson pressuring Brenden Dillon helped force a turnover in the offensive zone. Toffoli got the puck and fed it to Pearson from behind the net for a great scoring opportunity.
The Sharks tried to chip it into the Kings’ zone right after but were never able to regain control and set up. Toffoli exited the defensive zone with the puck, maintained control as he skated back into the Sharks’ end and slipped through Dillon’s attempt to check him. His shot on net hit Niemi and popped out. Jamie McBain skated down to grab it, waited just long enough for Sharks players to bite on defending a potential rebound shot, which left Toffoli with a wide open net backdoor. Pass, shot, score. Tie game.
That snapped Toffoli’s 10-game goalless slump, and the McBain pass really can’t be praised too highly. It was a nice play, extending McBain’s own points streak to three games. He’s earned a point in every game since returning from Healthy Scratchville, and he has five points in his last six games played.
The Sharks had a few more chances in the second period. Antti Niemi stayed strong at even strength. This includes stopping another Toffoli chance early in the period that developed when McBain’s bank off the boards bounced to Toffoli and he snuck between two Sharks, right to the blue paint.
Penalties were what burned the Sharks. They took two in the second. During the Kings’ second opportunity with the advantage, Kopitar capitalized on the rebound from Gaborik’s attempt, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead.
The power play hurt the Sharks again in the third period. This time it was Jake Muzzin’s bomb from the top of the circle. Score: 3-1 Kings. They’ve now picked up 10 goals in their last 23 power plays, meaning broadcasters will keep on calling it red hot!
Williams tried to make things more interesting than they needed to be by taking an offensive zone penalty with just under four minutes left. Kings fans immediately started breathing into paper bags, thinking about the Calgary Flames OT loss just before Christmas.
Luckily the Kings remembered how to defend against extra attackers this game. Toffoli and Gaborik even had a decent chance at the empty net, but a little too much power on the pass meant Gaborik couldn’t handle it cleanly, missing a final opportunity to extend his own goal streak. Oh, well. Kings win.
With the exception of the turnover and soft goal against early, the Kings played a really strong game throughout. They avoided losing twice in a row on home ice. No complaints here.