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

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 ½ 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.