The San Jose Sharks have lost three postseason home games in a row and dropped 48 of their last 85 after dropping a 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings Monday, April 18. Jonathan Quick leads the photo list of game stars for playing a major role in drawing the Pacific Division semifinals to within one at 2-1.
This was not another disappointing San Jose effort. The disadvantage in event summary possession statistics (30-39 faceoffs, 17-8 giveaways, 11-5 takeaways) is shown to be misleading by the advantages of 30-24 in shots and 74-58 in attempts. The game featured 100 hits and Los Angeles had 61 of them with only two more penalties and blocked 11 more shots (28-17), representing a better ratio of shots per block (1.07 vs. 1.41) and percentage of attempts blocked (37.8 to 29.3).
Despite the intensity and physicality, the game never got out of control. The fact that the referees allowed some hits go that could have called as minors for roughing or interference may have been better for the Kings but is not an example of imbalanced officiating. However, byteclay.com observed four questionable icings that all went against the Sharks.
One San Jose icing was probably the right call and one was a coin flip, but calling the other questionable is generous given the player most likely to win the race to the puck was wearing a teal sweater. Meanwhile, calling it questionable that one Los Angeles icing should not have been waived off is also generous—justifiable for sure but not really a call that is likely to go that way.
It should be noted that none of those icings led to goals allowed and there is nothing to say calls not made would have led to the Sharks scoring given none of the others did after the first shift. For his part, head coach Peter DeBoer tersely deflected any question about icing calls: “I think the refs are doing the best job they can. I think the refereeing has been fine.”
Overall, San Jose showed no sense of panic or dread and to a man stayed focused on how well the team played. No one expected Los Angeles to get swept with the talent in that dressing room, so a game like this was inevitable and playing like this will result in success over the rest of the series.
One thing that was different was the success the Kings had on the penalty kill. When asked what they were doing differently, DeBoer said, “I don’t know—you’d have to ask them,” before stressing that failing to score on the power play was not always an indication of failing to execute.
True, the first unit stayed on the attack for nearly 100 seconds of one late power play, but the two units struggled to generate much in their first three chances. The Sharks endured seven shots over their last two penalty kills but gave up a game-tying score 20 seconds into the first: Milan Lucic moved the puck from Jake Muzzin to Anze Kopitar in front of the crease and Martin Jones was beaten to the far side 30 seconds into the game.
San Jose spent most of the first shift attacking, culminating in Joe Thornton skating a puck he received from Tomas Hertl around the net and back to the slot before firing it through traffic. Los Angeles generated more offensive pressure for most of the rest of the period and got the score 8:10 in, but spent more of the rest of the game defending.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, that defense was tough to crack. Quick was especially aggressive and was drawn well away from the net when his defensive support barely controlled or cleared loose pucks a few times. He made a couple big stops including the save of the series to steal the win for the Kings.
Aside from not having the most impressive save, Jones was just as good as the goalie he used to back until the final shot. Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown made three of the four hits over six seconds and got an assist when the other to land a body check (Tanner Pearson) scooped up the loose puck and sent a shot from the left-wing circle that won it 3:47 into the overtime.
The next game in this Pacific Division semifinals is in San Jose Wednesday, while the teams will reconvene Friday in Los Angeles. All three games have been decided by one goal.