LOS ANGELES CA - JANUARY 26: Alexei Ponikarovsky #27 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates a goal against the San Jose Sharks with teammates at Staples Center on January 26 2011 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Although the Sharks threatened at times during tonight's match and held the lead going into the third, the Los Angeles Kings were able to tie the game and then improve on their already perfect record in the shootout. The Sharks, who played their worst hockey in the last two weeks in the third period of tonight's game, were unable to extend their winning streak to five games.
Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi scored in regulation and Douglas Murray had a strong game, but the Sharks played the third as if they were trying not to lose. Instead of putting their foot on the gas, the Sharks became complacent and let the Kings dictate pressure.
The Sharks started short shifting their forward lines as soon as the third period started, a decision which indicated the team's strategy; keep the players fresh, protect the lead. That strategy contributed to the Sharks demise, as the team was unable to create any momentum early on in the period. The Kings, on the other hand, strung together consecutive shifts and trapped the Sharks in their own end. Niclas Wallin, who had a mediocre game at best, was front and center on the Kings' second goal.
With the puck on his stick and his team in desperate need of a clear, Wallin flubbed a pass with a clear lane out of the zone. Los Angeles was able to keep the puck in, and after Wallin fell, Alexi Ponikarovsky put one through the legs of Antti Niemi for the equalizer. It was Ponikarovsky's first point since December 18th.
The Sharks had a golden opportunity to take the league before the end of regulation; Douglas Murray took a high stick to the mouth and earned his team a four-minute power play. However, the Sharks man-advantage lacked urgency and the four minutes ticked away as quickly as they were earned.
In overtime it was all Kings, but Antti Niemi kept the game even. Jonathan Quick did his part as well, making a beautiful toe-save on an almost sure goal by Logan Couture. Positively, Couture had yet another strong game, and continues to solidify himself as a vital member of this organization.
Jarret Stoll would score the only goal in the shootout, leaving the Sharks with just a point for their effort. Still, it's important to remember that the Sharks earned nine points out of the possible ten over the course of their last five games.
The Sharks won't have another chance to recover from the loss until February, when they face the Coyotes on the 1st. Hopefully, they will be able to continue to earn points in the standings after the long All-Star layoff. At the break, the Sharks are in a three-way tie for seventh in the conference. With the majority of the Sharks' upcoming games on the road, it's going to take more hard work to improve in the standings.