The Sharks (13-9-1) cemented their shiny new position atop the Pacific division with a stifling win over a scorching Los Angeles Kings (12-9-1) team Wednesday night, ending both their five game winning streak and their six game home winning streak, both season highs. Martin Jones looked sharp late in the second of back-to-back starts for San Jose, stopping 26 of 27 shots in a game that played much closer than the score indicates.
The Sharks and Kings hadn’t played since the season opener, a 2-1 win that cost the Kings one (1) Jonathan J. Quick, esquire. It took a few weeks, but eventually, the Kings landed on Peter Budaj, who’s been remarkably competent in the Kings crease since, posting a 12-6-0 record with a save percentage of 0.917 and a GAA of 2.04 on the season. Still, while fatigue seemed to be a factor early for the Sharks, having played to a brief overtime 2-1 win Tuesday night at home against the Arizona Coyotes, rust seemed to be a greater factor for the Kings early in their first game since Saturday.
It didn’t take long for the Sharks to start the beat down tonight, as Logan Couture found Kevin Labanc on a 2-on-1, and the kid scored his second of the season onto a wide open net past Peter Budaj at 3:32 of the first period.
A physical first period continued, as a borderline hit from Jake Muzzin sent Chris Tierney into the boards, and then into the dressing room. Luckily for us Cobra fans, he returned to start the second. As the period wound down, Logan Couture made it 2-0 on a juicy rebound from a Joonas Donskoi shot after being left wide open in the low slot by Nick Shore at 19:05.
The Sharks seemed happy to cruise into the first intermission up by two, except for Ryan Carpenter. A mere thirty seconds after Couture’s goal, Carpenter took matters into his own hands, as he chipped the puck off the boards past Tyler Toffoli at the red line, streaked down the right side and wristed the puck 5-hole past poor, poor Peter Budaj at 19:35 of the first.
The Sharks entered the first intermission up 3-0 on a clearly rusty Kings team, having been idle since Saturday, despite being tied in shots on goal at 7 (thanks, Marty!) The second didn’t start quite so fortuitously.
Dustin Brown put the Kings back into it on the power play 3:01 into the second period, on a sloppy rebound goal right in front of the crease. Officials on the ice didn’t initially see the puck go into the net and waved it off, but later video review upheld the tragic truth of things, and the Kings were on the board.
The Kings poured it on throughout the second, outshooting the Sharks 11-9, not including a ring of the crossbar by Tanner Pearson, and a great save in the crease by Brent Burns, but the Sharks held on to their two goal lead going into the third.
The Sharks came into the third with a little more jump than they started the second, with Joe Pavelski creating two great chances early, only to be stymied by Peter Budaj. LA’s penalty kill came to play early in the third, as they were shorthanded for the first time tonight, and came out of it unblemished. The Kings went ballistic on poor Martin Jones as the third wound down, but he was spectacular against his former team, and Logan Couture scored his second of the night on a long bomb into an empty net at 18:43, sealing the Kings fate with a 4-1 road decision.
- Martin Jones looked nervous and a little twitchy early. Later, not so much. There are plenty of data to support the idea that goalies perform worse on the second night of back to backs, but luckily that didn’t seem to apply here. 21 blocked shots helps quite a bit, I’m sure.
- I think it’s time for me to jump on the Labanc train, he looked confident, poised, and dangerous pretty regularly.
- The Sharks were dominated in the faceoff dot again tonight, winning a paltry 37% of draws. They were 25th in the league at 48.5% coming into this game, and this didn’t help. The Sharks are cruising right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas that could be improved.
- This is the best thing:
Fear the Fin Three Stars
- Logan Couture
- Martin Jones
- Ryan Carpenter