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Sharks vs. Kings Game 4: Special teams play gets it done

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Both sides of the Sharks special teams play got to work on Wednesday.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose scored three times on the power play in its game four victory over the Kings, but the pair of penalty kills loom nearly as large for the Sharks in that key 3-2 victory. The Sharks needed all three of those goals, it turned out, as the Kings woke up following Marleau's tally early on in the third period. Thankfully, some staunch defense and a little bit of luck allowed the Sharks to hang on.

You know that, presumably, but let's rewind to some of the plays that allowed the Sharks that cushion to begin with. The table below shows some statistics for the Sharks and Kings while on the man-advantage.

Team GF SF MSF BSF CF SCF HSCF
S.J 3 7 2 5 14 8 4
L.A 0 4 3 4 11 5 0

The Sharks played 4.3 minutes on the power play while the Kings played 4.1 — that difference is fairly minor given San Jose's five attempts on the power play compared to LA's two. That happens when you score so proficiently so often. San Jose earned three more scoring chances, and three more shots on goal, than the Kings on the man-advantage. That's notable, but not quite as much as the high-danger scoring chances, which you see in that final column.

San Jose managed to keep the Kings from earning a single one. That stat isn't the end-all-be-all of killing off power plays — heck, both of the Kings goals came from distance, certainly not from danger areas. Still, compare that to how many the Sharks allowed in the first three games of this series while the Kings played with an extra skater.

Team HSCF HSCF60
L.A 19 69.8

That high-danger scoring chances per 60 of 69.8 was tops in the NHL entering yesterday's action — and by a wide margin. The Sharks came in second with a HSCF60 of just 32.4. So yeah, the Sharks allowed the Kings far too many high danger scoring chances through the first three games of the series. That changed on Wednesday night, as the Sharks looked much more comfortable on the penalty kill — something that just can't be said for the Kings on either the power play or penalty kill.

LA still leads, but the Sharks narrowed the margin. San Jose boasts an absolutely lethal power play, but the Kings managed to hold the Sharks off the board on the man-advantage in game three. That turned out to be the difference in the game, but San Jose didn't change a thing entering game four and it paid off in a big way. It can't hurt to watch the goals again, right?

Joel Ward makes a great play here. Not only does he help hold the puck in the zone, instead of just going for the shot with time winding down he throws the puck across the ice to the waiting stick of Brent Burns. We all know what Burns can do when he gets all of a shot.

We've seen this goal plenty of times, both at even strength and on the power play. Joe Thornton, parked in his office, throws it to the front of the net and Joe Pavelski takes advantage. Nothing complicated, just a simple play and Pavelski beating the defender to give the Sharks a 2-0 advantage.

San Jose's first two goals came on real nice set plays. This one? Not so much. A broken play resulted in Patrick Marleau getting the puck on his backhand and he scooped it up into the top corner to give the Sharks some much needed insurance. Power play goals are most frequently scored while the attacking team is in a formation — but getting a chance on the rush works too.

The Sharks hold a slight edge in this series in 5v5 scoring, but last night's game showed just how lethal San Jose can be in special teams. If the Sharks keep this up, they'll have a lot more than winning this first round on their minds.