Los Angeles Hockey: Joe Thornton

Kings: All tied, 1-1, after physical first period vs. Sharks

April, 5, 2012
After the 1st period:

Kings 1, San Jose Sharks 1

The good: Three minutes into the game, it was announced to the crowd that the Kings had clinched a playoff berth for the third straight season, courtesy of a 2-0 victory by the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars. There were lots of cheers, but no high fives on the Kings’ bench, no stick taps by the players on the ice, not even a sigh of relief from Kings coach Darryl Sutter. In their minds, there’s still plenty of work to do. The Sharks and Kings remain in a tight three-team race for the Pacific Division championship and the No. 3 seeding for the Western Conference playoffs that comes with the title. San Jose, which also clinched a playoff berth with the Dallas loss, tried to intimidate the Kings early on, as its team captain, Joe Thornton, coaxed Drew Doughty into a fight for the first time this season. Though Doughty gave away about 30 pounds and took a couple good lefts to the face, his desire to throw blows with Thornton must have inspired his teammates. The Kings ended up with a two-minute power play following the scrap because Thornton was also called for cross-checking Doughty before the fight. While skating 4-on-3, the Kings scored when Anze Kopitar’s shot from the high slot rebounded off goalie Antti Niemi. The puck came straight back out, where Dustin Brown nudged it to the side, leaving Alec Martinez with an clear view to shoot the puck high in the net before Niemi could react. It was the sixth goal of the season for Martinez and the 49th assist for Kopitar, establishing a career high.

The bad: The Kings were completely dominating the game, out-shooting the Sharks, 18-3, and maintaining possession in their offensive zone for long stretches when San Jose scored out of the blue. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick kicked a long shot by Dominic Moore into the corner, where it was retrieved by defenseman Jason Demers. He passed to Daniel Winnick behind the net, then cut to the front where he got the puck back and scored his fourth goal of the season with 3:33 remaining. The way the Kings dominated the first 16 minutes, they deserved to go into intermission with more than just a tied score.

The in between: The Kings will still have 4:06 remaining to kill on a five-minute power play for the Sharks. Kings second-year forward Kyle Clifford hit Logan Couture from behind in front of the San Jose bench, and though the contact did not seem to severe, Couture crumpled to the ice and had to be helped to the locker room, while Clifford went to the box for a major boarding penalty. Kings defenseman Matt Greene also dropped the gloves for the first time, holding his own against San Jose alternated captain Ryan Clowe. The Sharks suffered another injury to one of the forwards when Torrey Mitchell was hit from behind by Colin Fraser in his offensive zone. Mitchell, who has nine goals and 10 assists this season, stayed on the ice for a couple minutes before he was helped to the locker room and did not return.

Kings lose fifth straight game, 4-2

November, 7, 2011
Kings vs SharksAP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezDrew Doughty and the Kings couldn't find their game against the Sharks in a loss Monday.
San Jose Sharks 4, Kings 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The San Jose Sharks scored four consecutive goals in a span of just under 15 minutes during the second half of Monday night's game at HP Pavilion in San Jose, more than enough to send the reeling Kings to their fifth consecutive loss.

THE STAT: The Kings were held under three goals for the fifth straight game and have two goals or fewer in 10 of 14 games this season.

TURNING POINT: After the Kings took a 1-0 lead on a 5-on-3 goal by Jack Johnson early in the second period, the Sharks exploded for three goals in a 5 minute 23 second-span of the same period. Joe Thornton faked a wraparound, reversed direction and banked a shot off Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from below the icing line. Less than a minute later, Patrick Marleau redirected a shot from Dan Boyle between Quick’s legs, and Boyle then made it 3-1 with a 5-on-3 goal of his own.

HOT: The Kings had one of their better first periods of the season, out-shooting San Jose, 14-7, but they had nothing to show for it ... Up against the 29th-ranked penalty kill unit in the league, the Kings scored both of their goals on the power play, one area of improvement thus far this season ... Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist, giving him eight points in the last six games.

NOT: In his five starts since establishing a franchise record with three consecutive shutouts, Quick has been off his mark, giving up 18 goals in six games with a save percentage of just .900 (162-180) ... Johnson scored a goal but was also minus-3 for the game, along with his defense partner, Rob Scuderi.

GOOD MOVE: Kings coach Terry Murray moved Dustin Penner from the third to the second line to give him more scoring opportunities and the switch paid off early, as Penner had three good scoring chances in the opening period but couldn’t convert. Unfortunately, he didn't get another shot on net the rest of the game.

BAD MOVE: With the Kings leading, 1-0, left wing Kyle Clifford was whistled for tripping in his offensive zone. The Sharks didn’t score during the ensuing power play but still had possession when the penalty ended and Thornton scored 14 seconds later to tie the score, 1-1. The soft goal may have bothered Quick because he gave up two more goals before the period ended.

NOTABLE: Dustin Brown played in his 200th consecutive game for the Kings, the longest streak of any current team member ... Boyle came into the game with the most shots on goal by any player in the NHL without scoring a goal. That streak did not continue.

UP NEXT: Tuesday vs. the Nashville Predators at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Kings: Failed power play will stick in their minds

April, 26, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- Kings coach Terry Murray called it the most critical point in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The Kings were awarded a five-minute power play with the score tied and about 3½ minutes remaining in regulation Monday night against the San Jose Sharks.

L.A. didn’t score in regulation and couldn’t come close after the man advantage carried over into overtime.

Less than a minute after killing the penalty, the Sharks decided they’d seen enough of the Kings, and Joe Thornton poked in the winning goal, ending the Kings’ season with a 4-3 victory at Staples Center, their third overtime win of the series.

“We had a chance to put it away,” Murray said of the five-minute power play.

The loss was even more agonizing because Kings defenseman Drew Doughty thought he had scored the winner in the final minute of regulation during a scramble in front of the goal crease, but the puck was knocked away just before it sailed into the net.

“I got a whack at the puck and I don’t really know where it went because I couldn’t see, but I thought it went in,” Doughty said. “I started to celebrate.”

From the Kings bench, it also appeared the Kings had won.

“There was celebrations going on, people were throwing their arms in the air,” Murray said. “I thought it was over.”

The Kings were awarded the five-minute major penalty after Brad Richardson was checked into the boards by San Jose winger Jamie McGinn, cutting Richardson's right temple area and resulting in a major charging penalty and a game misconduct for McGinn.

“I saw him coming but he kind of elbowed me right in the face,” Richardson said. “It’s one of those things they’re trying to take out of the league. … I’m sure the league will deal with it appropriately.”

If McGinn does face further disciplinary action, such as a suspension, his loss will hardly be felt by the Sharks. He played in only one other playoff game -- a 3-1 victory by the Kings in Game 5 -- and totaled just one goal during the regular season.

It was a rough night overall for Richardson. He finished minus-4 for the game and also had some teeth knocked out when he was struck with a high stick by Thornton in the second period. The Kings managed to capitalize on that four-minute power play when Justin Williams put back a rebound off Jack Johnson's wrist shot to tie the score 1-1.

“It was a rough game on the face,” said Richardson, blood still trickling down his right cheek.

Ryan Smyth added another power-play goal early in the third period to tie the score 2-2, but the Sharks tightened up their penalty kill down the stretch.

Kings captain Dustin Brown said the theme of the series was missed opportunities, who lost all three games at home.

“We had a 4-0 lead at home in Game 3 and two other overtime games and were right there,” he said. “The difference between winning and losing is that small. They found ways to get goals in OT and we didn’t. Right now that’s the difference.”

A difference the Kings will have to ponder for the next five months.

Kings: Justin Williams scores but L.A. trails, 2-1

April, 25, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 6 (San Jose leads best-of-seven series, 3-2)

After the 2nd period:

San Jose Sharks 2, Kings 1

The good: Kings center Brad Richardson appeared to loose some teeth with just under nine minutes left in the period and the Kings made sure they weren’t lost for nothing. On the ensuing four-minute high-sticking penalty to Joe Thornton, the Kings threatened for the first three minutes before Justin Williams finally pounced on a rebound off the shot of defenseman Jack Johnson and put it past goalie Antti Niemi to tie the score, 1-1, with 6:33 left in the period. Williams, who was questionable for the playoffs after dislocating his shoulder with 2 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season, has three playoff goals. Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi took a skate blade to the face while attempting to throw a hip check on Niclas Wallin. Scuderi immediately went down and appeared to be cut as he headed to the locker room, but he returned to the ice a few minutes later. The Kings also killed two penalties in the period, with goalie Jonathan Quick doing the best work.

The bad: San Jose finally got one by Quick on their 19th shot on goal. Quick lost his stick seconds earlier after a mad scramble in the crease. Not sure if the Sharks recognized the missing equipment, but Thornton found third-line forward Kyle Wellwood alone in the slot seconds later and he hit the top of the crossbar on Quick’s glove side for a 1-0 lead 2:58 into the period. Shortly after the Kings tied the score, Ryan Smyth had a golden opportunity to give the Kings a lead when a teammates's slap shot got loose in the crease, but Smyth couldn't connect with the bouncing puck cleanly and Niemi used his outstretched arm to keep it in front of the goal line. The Sharks then took the air back out of Staples Center about 90 seconds later when they out-muscled the Kings for a loose puck along the boards in their offensive zone, and Joe Pavelski fed a nice cross-ice pass to Jason Demers who had a step on Kings forward Scott Parse. Demers nailed a one-timer past Quick for a 2-1 lead with 3:08 remaining. Parse, who returned in Game 5 after sitting out the last six months following hip surgery, looked a little gimpy as he pursued Demers. The Kings have allowed one goal in the opening periods of the series and 12 in the second.

The in between: The Kings were getting out-shot, 25-7, at the halfway point of the period but the shot totals now read 18 for the Kings and 29 for the Sharks. The have 20 minutes to turn things around, otherwise it's another long offseason.

Kings: Defense gives it up again in 6-3 loss to Sharks

April, 21, 2011
LOS ANGELES — Maybe the Kings can hit fast-forward next time.

After holding the Sharks scoreless in the first period for the third consecutive game, the Kings fell apart in the opening 10 minutes of the second for the second straight game, allowing three goals that were the difference in the 6-3 victory Thursday night at Staples Center.

The Sharks to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series that continues Saturday night in San Jose.

The Kings allowed a season-high five goals in the second period of Game 3, enabling the Sharks to rally from four goals down and win in overtime, 6-5.

This time it was the Sharks who scored first, and second, and third.

After building a 3-0 lead on two goals by Ryane Clowe and another by Jason Demers, the Kings brought some excitement back to the sold-out crowd when Brad Richardson and Justin Williams scored in the second half of the second period to make it a one-goal game heading into the third.

But the Sharks stole back the momentum, getting goals from Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski to extend their lead back to three with just over 17 minutes remaining in the game.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who shut out the Sharks in Game 2 in San Jose, allowed all six goals, pushing his goals-against total to 12 in the last two games.

More to come from the locker room.

Kings: Goalies dominate in scoreless first period

April, 21, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 4 (San Jose leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)

After the 1st period:

Kings 0, San Jose Sharks 0

The good: If the opening period was any indication, this game won’t be the shootout Game 3 was, when the Sharks stormed from four goals down to win in overtime, 6-5. Both goalies are playing as if they have a lot to prove after that game. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made several brilliant saves on the 13 shots he faced, including a pair of world-class stops on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the period that lasted 1:22. Both attempts came on cross passes to an open side of the net, but Quick slid across the crease in time to bat both redirections away. Michal Handzus and Rob Scuderi also deserve an assist on that penalty kill, as both were on the ice for the entire two-man disadvantage. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, who was pulled from Game 3 after giving up four goals in just over a period, knocked down a couple of good chances from Wayne Simmonds and another from Kyle Clifford during the best shift of the period for the Kings, which started about six minutes into the game.

The bad: The Kings had their own 5-on-3, although theirs lasted only 13 seconds. The back-to-back penalties seemed to give them some momentum, but defenseman Drew Doughty nearly threw a bucket of cold water on his team when he committed a turnover at the blue line during the second power play, whch nearly resulted in a 2-on-1 goal. Joe Thornton then stole the puck off Doughty's stick in offensive zone and passed Patrick Marleau for an open look but Quick snuffed out that chance as well.

The in between: Dustin Penner has definitely caught the attention of Kings fans. Penner, who broke a 14-game point-less streak with an assist last game but was then caught behind the play on the winning overtime goal, was booed when the starting lineups were announced. Penner did not manage any shots in the opening period but he did record a hit.

Ducks: Back to square one for Hiller?

March, 26, 2011
Ducks (41-28-5, 87 points) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (40-25-8, 88) at United Center, 5:30 p.m. PT.

Five storylines to track:

1. Too much too soon?Jonas Hiller didn’t last long in his return to goal Thursday night in Nashville. After a 15-game absence because of vertigo-like symptoms, Hiller gave up three goals on nine shots before getting the hook in the first period. The Ducks staged a late comeback but ultimately lost, 5-4. Did the Ducks rush their All-Star goalie back into the lineup too soon? If they wind up missing the playoffs by a point or two, the decision to test Hiller in such a big game will be ripe for second-guessing.

2. Drum roll please – For the second straight game, the Ducks will be playing a team that’s one point and one spot ahead in the Western Conference standings. They couldn’t leapfrog Nashville, but they’ll get another chance against the seventh-place Blackhawks. It won’t come easy as Chicago has won six consecutive home games and five of its last six against Anaheim at United Center. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is also calling this the biggest game of the season, a rallying cry that has surely been heard by his players.

3. Getting noticed – There’s usually not a lot of talk of Hart Memorial Trophy winners in these parts. The only people West of Colorado and South of Vancouver to win the league’s most valuable player award was Wayne Gretzky of the Kings in 1988-89 and Joe Thornton, who spent part of the 2005-06 season with the San Jose Sharks. The chatter has picked up with every goal by Corey Perry of the Ducks, however. He scored his 41stand 42nd of the season against the Predators to move one behind Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay for the league lead.

4. Not as sharp – The Ducks won’t have to deal with Chicago center Patrick Sharp, who left Sunday’s game against Phoenix because of a left knee injury and is expected to miss a majority of the team’s final nine games. Sharp has a team-high 34 goals and is second with 68 points. He has nine goals and eight assists in 20 career games against Anaheim. Viktor Stalberg has moved into a top-line role for the Blackhawks but he’s hardly the offensive dynamo that they'll miss in Sharp.

5. Chicago’s own Corey– The Blackhawks are expected to start rookie Corey Crawford in goal, and he needs one victory to become the first Chicago goalie to record 30 wins in a season since Jocelyn Thibault in 2001-02. Crawford played his first NHL game five years ago but because he has had just a handful of appearances before this season and did not turn 26 until December, he retained his rookie status, making him a viable candidate for the Calder Trophy. Crawford earned his first career shutout against the Ducks two years ago.

Kings: Looking for a Quick turnaround

December, 27, 2010
Kings (21-12-1) vs. San Jose Sharks (19-11-5) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Two teams on a roll -- Expect another playoff-type atmosphere when these teams meet for the second time this season. Both clubs are playing some of their best hockey of the season and the winner will take over sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference. The Kings have won three straight after Sunday night’s 4-1 whitewash against the Anaheim Ducks and are 8-2-1 in December. The Sharks are riding a four-game winning streak, their longest of the season, and are 8-3-1 for the month.

2. This time it’s Quick -- The last time the Kings traveled to San Jose they were riding a six-game winning streak and the Sharks stopped them in their tracks with a 6-3 victory. That marked the beginning of a stretch in which Los Angeles lost seven of eight. The difference this time is the Kings will have their No. 1 goalkeeper, Jonathan Quick, minding the net. Quick has allowed just three goals in two games at HP Pavilion and stopped 45 shots in his last game there, a 6-2 victory in January.

3. The power is on -- The Kings seemed to have figured out their early season power play woes, scoring at least one man-advantage goal in eight of their last nine games. They haven’t experienced such a power surge since mid-February to early March 2009, when they scored at least one power play goal in 12 of 13 games. The key has been simple, according to coach Terry Murray: shoot the puck at the net and good things will happen. That’s exactly how they scored against the Ducks. Drew Doughty sent a laser at goalkeeper Jonas Hiller and Dustin Brown was there to tap in the rebound.

(Read full post)

Kings: On the way to San Jose

November, 15, 2010
Kings (12-3-0) vs. San Jose Sharks (8-5-2) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Role Reversal – The Sharks have won three straight Pacific Division titles. The Kings? Try 1990-91. But for one of the few times since San Jose joined the division in 1993-94, the Sharks are staring up at the Kings and probably wondering, ‘How did I get here?’ Well, for starters, you fired Dean Lombardi as general manager in 2002 and he now works for the Kings, where he has done a phenomenal job of rebuilding the organization. Touche!

2. Road Ready – After sweeping just their second five-game home stand in franchise history, the Kings play on the road Monday for the first time in 2 weeks. And this isn’t just any road game. According to a Sports Illustrated poll of NHL players last winter, the Shark Tank was voted as the ‘toughest road arena to play in." The Kings haven’t been so intimidated by the Tank lately, owning a 5-3-2 record in their last 10 games at HP Pavilion, while just 3-6-1 at home against the Sharks.

3. Repeat business -- This topic is getting redundant but only because it’s getting more remarkable. The Kings’ penalty-kill unit has risen to the top of the NHL standings with a success rate of 92.2% this season. Let’s not hold our breath here, but the Kings are on pace to allow just 95.6 goals this season, and the NHL record for fewest goals allowed during a season of 70 or more games is 131 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1953-54.

(Read full post)