Intensity Matched- The good news about the game going into Thursday evening for the San Jose Sharks was they had an opponent they could get up for. Logan Couture’s wrap around goal with 7:47 remaining in the second period turned out to be the difference in Team Teal’s 2-1 win over their bitter Southern California rivals in the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks with the victory clinched home ice for a potential first round playoff match versus the Kings which would start in just under two weeks. Brent Burns had a power play goal earlier in the second period to draw the Sharks even at a goal apiece. Antti Niemi who had been slumping as of late made 26 saves on the evening only allowing an early goal to the Kings’ Jordan Nolan. Niemi’s counterpart Martin Jones started in goal for Los Angeles and had a decent night with 19 saves of his own. Jones played in place of the Kings’ number one goalie Jonathan Quick who was given the night off as Los Angeles was playing the second game of back to backs.
The key to the Sharks success Thursday night was their ability to match the Kings’ intensity throughout much of the game. This was key as Los Angeles controlled the puck and had a lot of time spent in the Sharks defensive zone for most of the evening. The Sharks had trouble with the Kings’ team speed. However what the Sharks lacked in speed they made up for in intensity. Team Teal set a team record with 52 hits on the evening with Tommy Wingels having ten of them on his own. The Sharks blocked a total of 27 shots in the game as they did an excellent job of putting themselves in the shooting lanes forcing Los Angeles to alter some shots towards the Sharks net.
Penalty Kill Huge- Another key to the Team Teal victory was their penalty kill coming up huge as they successfully killed off all five of the Los Angeles power play opportunities. Niemi came up big with eight of his 26 saves when the Sharks were a man down. In a game as tough as this one was and with the Kings having spent a good amount of time in the Team Teal defensive zone, penalties are almost certain to happen at some point. The Sharks were able to find the extra gear they needed when they were a man short. Face-off wins and being able to clear pucks when the opportunity arose all came in handy for Team Teal.
Early Damage Control- Los Angeles would get the game’s first goal just 3:36 into the contest when Jordan Nolan tipped in a slap shot from Jarret Stoll. Nolan was coming from behind the Sharks goal and was able to get at just the right spot to deflect Stoll’s shot which was heading wide of the goal. Team Teal would find themselves chasing the puck for much of the opening period as the Kings were able to apply continuous pressure throughout. The SoCal visitors would outshoot the Sharks 10-5 for the period which meant Niemi had to quickly recover from the early goal. After Nolan’s goal the Sharks netminder would rebound nicely and make nine saves to keep the Sharks within striking distance.
Teal Turning Points- Brent Burns’ power play goal was set up after the second coming of Chris Pronger a.k.a Dustin Brown drew a roughing penalty. Brown was called for the infraction after battling along the boards with Andrew Desjardins. Brown tried to free himself from Desjardins by throwing him to the ice in a semi-clothesline motion. After Brown was sent to the penalty box the Sharks did not waste any time with the opportunity before them. Off of the face off team captain Joe Thornton was able to get the puck to Burns. From there Burns would pass the puck over to Dan Boyle who immediately got it back to Burns. While Thornton was occupying the Kings’ Matt Greene, this cleared a shooting lane for Burns who blasted the puck past Jones to tie the game. Joe Pavelski also provided help as he was able to screen Jones just enough to allow Burns’ shot on goal to get through to the back of the net. Couture would give the Sharks a 2-1 lead when he was able to seize a loose puck around the back of the Kings’ goal and beat Jones to his right. Two goals and a total team effort that was just nails would do the trick for the Sharks who were able to come up big when it mattered the most.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks take on the Nashville Predators in their only visit to the Shark Tank this season Saturday Night. The puck drops at 7:30pm PDT. The game can be seen on CSN-CA in Northern California and heard along the Sharks Radio Network.
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