Well, the San Jose Sharks lost the Stadium Series game. That is most unfortunate for them and the fan base. But, that doesn't mean that the event was a bust for the Sharks and there supporters as a sold out Levi's Stadium showed the world the immense following hockey has in California. This was more than a game and a crucial two points in the standings; it was a demonstration showing how far the sport has come since its inception. The game is growing.
EPIX did a fantastic job covering the lead-up to the event by granting fans a detailed look at the teams' locker room action as well as the players' personal lives. Finally, the wait is over though, and it is time to take a look at the last segment of this incredible series.
The episode began by showing the injured Tanner Pearson, who would unfortunately be missing the stadium showdown due to a broken ankle. Despite his injury though, the Los Angeles Kings were on a four-game winning streak at the time, with "That 70's Line" being an offensive force. They discussed Pearson's injury but mentioned that his replacement, Dwight King (who luckily has a number in the 70's), had fit in quite well with the group.
The Kings would take on the Lightning that night at Staple's Center, looking to extend their winning streak. A goal by Anze Kopitar gave his team the push they needed to overcome one of the best teams in the East. They would emerge victorious that night with a five-game winning streak in hand. Slowly, they were gaining ground on the Sharks for a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the Sharks were shorking it up having lost six of their previous eight contests. They would get no mercy from the schedule makers though as they were matched up agains the best team in the West-- the Nashville Predators. Despite putting up a good number of shots and chances, they were unable to beat Pekka Rinne more than once and ultimately fell by the score of 5-1.
Big shocker, the next segment of the Los Angeles team features them eating once again. Judging by the way this team is documented, they must consume food 20 hours a day. It's no surprise that this was the clip that was used to promote this episode either.
The Kings were playing against the Colorado Avalanche that night in Denver, again looking to expand on their streak. In typical Los Angeles fashion, they won 4-1 while being outshot by the Avalanche by almost a 2:1 margin. For the moment, they were back in a playoff position and the locker room was very excited about climbing out of the hole they put themselves in. But while all this is going on, their uniforms for the Stadium Series game were being pressed by the same man who pressed Wayne Gretzky's jersey when he was traded to southern California.
In Dallas, the Sharks were preparing to face another team that was chasing them in the standings. With Los Angeles winning in Colorado the previous night, the team was determined to jump right back into the wild card spot they had just lost. They did so decisively, as a pair of goals by all-star goal scorer Andrew Desjardins helped the Sharks to a 3-0 lead in the second period. With the help of two empty netters, San Jose won by the score of 5-2. They showed a portion of the Marc-Edouard Vlasic interview after the game, but left out the part where he hilariously criticized the reporters. They missed out on a chance to show Vlasic's personality on that one.
On the Friday before the matchup in Santa Clara, the teams were permitted to practice on the ice in preparation for the game the next night. Both clubs were astonished by the size of the venue and the quality of the locker rooms. Never-the-less both teams still had a job to do. San Jose focused a lot of their practice time on adjusting to the conditions of the rink, including the ice quality and the way sound travels. Afterwards, the families of the team were allowed to skate out on the rink with their loved ones. This was the perfect opportunity for the EPIX crew to show the great John Scott outside of his gooning environment.
That evening, the Kings skated on the rink and examined their surroundings. Having played in an outdoor game before, they had an idea of what the conditions would be like, but there were still some adjustments to be made. For example, Jonathan Quick had some issues dealing with the glare on the ice from the lights. Their practice was uptempo and set the tone for the game they would have the next evening.
Finally, the night had come-- puck drop at Levi's Stadium was just mere moments away. The teams took their warmup skate in front of over 70,000 fans in the sold out venue, many of them witnessing Trevor Lewis getting hit with a puck. Before the start of the contest, both coaches gave a pep-talk and some advice for their respective teams about the importance of the event and the other factors that come in to play when playing outside.
Los Angeles dominated the majority of the first period and had San Jose pinned in their zone for seemingly minutes at a time. They took a 1-0 lead early in the contest. However, despite being outplayed by their opponents, the Sharks managed to tie the game up on a goal by wookie Brent Burns with just over a minute left in the opening frame. The period ended tied at one.
In the locker room, coaches talked about the necessary adjustments. Todd McLellan discussed the ice quality and the importance of forechecking while Darryl Sutter harped about the need for clean breakouts. But, when the second period started, it was the Sharks who carried the pace. They came up with chance after chance in the Kings' zone but were unable to beat Quick. The physical second period ended with the score remaining 1-1.
In the third period, it was Marian Gaborik who would break the hearts of Sharks' fans everywhere. Early in the period, he took the puck away from Burns and was able to fire a shot past Antti Niemi's glove and into the back of the net. From their, they never looked back. Los Angeles imposed their will on San Jose until the final seconds and came out of Santa Clara with a victory, two points, and a game in hand over the Sharks. The Teal Town rival also had successfully won their seventh straight contest. This loss hurt.
Even though the outcome wasn't what many of us reading would have desired, you can't deny how amazing the atmosphere was. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that perfectly demonstrated the passion for hockey out west. This is something that will be remembered for many years to come.