Saturday, April 7, 2012
Kings: Another two-goal lead goes by wayside in season finale
By Dan Arritt
San Jose Sharks 3, Kings 2 (OT)
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: By the time the puck dropped Saturday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose, neither the Kings nor Sharks still had an opportunity to win the Pacific Division title. Phoenix took care of that just before the opening faceoff by defeating the Wild in Minnesota to clinch its first division championship in franchise history. There was still plenty of incentive to enter the postseason on a high note, however. Unfortunately, that team won't be the Kings, who blew a two-goal lead in the third period before giving the game away in overtime. The Kings finished as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and will open the playoffs Wednesday or Thursday in Vancouver against the top-seeded Canucks.
THE STAT: For the second consecutive season, the Kings had a chance to earn home-ice advantage for the first round by winning their final two games. Instead, they were swept for the second consecutive year. This one particularly hurt, as the Kings held two-goal leads late in both games and would have won their first Pacific Division title in 21 years had they held on.
TURNING POINT: With his team trailing, 2-0, after two periods, San Jose coach Todd McLellan made the bold move of pulling starting goalie Antti Niemi and replacing him with Thomas Greiss, who had played just once since Feb. 26. That seemed to send a message to the players, as defenseman Dan Boyle scored 35 seconds into the third period to give the Sharks life, and Patrick Marleau tied the score with a power-play goal at the 8:14 mark of the period. That allowed the game to venture into overtime, and Boyle won it with 1:02 left in the extra five-minute period, backhanding a shot from 10 feet out past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
HOT: After scoring four power-play goals Thursday night in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Sharks at Staples Center, the most in one game in three years, the Kings scored two more man-advantage goals in the rematch. L.A. came into the game 8-for-24 on the man-advantage against San Jose this season, and ended up scoring 20 percent of its power-play goals against the Sharks. Justin Williams, who scored two power-play goals in the loss Thursday, scored the first goal for the Kings, his 22nd of the season, matching his total from a year ago. The Kings also out-shot San Jose in the opening period, 15-5, after out-shooting them in the first 20 minutes Thursday, 18-8.
NOT: As was noted in the game preview and deserves repeating, Quick has proved to be a great goalie in the fall and winter, but a bust in the spring, when it matters most. He did not look sharp against the Sharks for the second consecutive game and is most responsible for the Kings failing to win the Pacific Division. At the end of the 2009-10 season, he gave up three or more goals in seven of his last nine regular-season starts, then allowed 21 goals in a six-game loss against Vancouver in the opening round. Last season, he allowed 11 goals in his final four starts of the regular season. The Kings lost three of those games, keeping them from earning home-ice advantage in the first round. He then gave up 20 goals in a six-game loss to the Sharks, including six goals in Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center. He allowed eight goals in the final two games against the Sharks this season. This upcoming playoff series could define Quick’s career for years to come.
GOOD MOVE: While the Kings were still leading, 1-0, the Sharks had a two-man advantage for 1:23 of the second period, but the Kings did not allow a shot on goal during that span. Opponents this season went 2-for-12 with the two-man advantage against the Kings. Shortly afterward, the Kings went on the power play and took a 2-0 goal on a goal by Mike Richards off a sloppy rebound left by Niemi.
BAD MOVE: After such a physical battle Thursday night in which there were three fights, 63 penalty minutes and one blatant non-call on San Jose winger Ryane Clowe, the Kings didn’t bring their typical physical edge. Maybe it was because they no longer had a chance to clinch the Pacific Division, but they were out-hit, 35-18. Dustin Brown, the most physical player on the team who came in second in the league in hits, had none. Meanwhile, Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray set a franchise record with 10.
NOTABLE: The Kings will open on the road in Vancouver, likely playing Wednesday and Friday because Staples Center is booked the following week on Monday and Tuesday nights. The most logical open dates for Games 3 and 4 in the 2-2-1-1-1 first-round format are April 8 and 11 at Staples Center. The full first-round schedule will be released by the league Sunday at 10 a.m. … Kings forward Anze Kopitar led the team in scoring for the fifth straight season. Marcel Dionne is the only player in franchise history with a longer streak (8). … San Jose forward Joe Pavelski, who scored the only goal of the shootout in the victory Thursday against the Kings, went straight to the locker room after taking a puck to face off a deflection by Willie Mitchell early in the first period, but returned for the second. Clowe and defenseman Ian White did not play in the third period, as they were rested by McLellan, according to reports. … Kings defensemen Rob Scuderi (3) and Mitchell (2) led the Kings in shots on goal in the first period, while no forwards for the Kings had more than one. Nine of 15 shots on net in the opening period came from blue liners.
UP NEXT: at Vancouver in Game 1 of Western Conference playoffs, TBA.