The Sharks organization, rounded out by Jasper Weatherby and Brent Burns, played a video discussing the importance and meaning of MLK day during the first TV timeout, which was a great reminder of the significance of the afternoon game.
The first few minutes were filled with missed connections for both teams, but the sloppiness didn’t last long. Less than five minutes into the first period, Arthur Kaliyev took a holding penalty which sent the Sharks to a power play. The power play has been a repeat topic in practice, especially where it concerns the overall lack of goal-scoring. Scoring fast and early has been a focal point as of late, and the message finally got across in Timo Meier’s power play goal.
The Kings were looking for an equalizer early, but despite the general lack of energy from San Jose’s defense early in the first, James Reimer was settling things down relatively easily in his first game back since being placed on injured reserve for a lower-body injury.
Whether it was the early start time messing with everyone’s routines, or the Kings doing a good job keeping the puck in the zone, the Sharks were having trouble clearing the puck in those first ten minutes. The pace of play was relatively sedate (read: boring), but the chances the Kings were generating were anything but. When the Sharks were able to break out of the zone, it was mostly through rush chances that very swiftly turned back the other way.
Reimer was forced to make a few sprawling saves, and my hope in the Sharks’ ability to maintain defensive coverage in their own zone began to dwindle. When they were in the offensive zone, the Sharks were right there in front of the net and high slot, but any time spent in their own zone was less than ideal.
For being in the playoff hunt and occupying such a small margin of points between each other in the standings there wasn’t much fire or physicality between the two teams in the first period. There were some turnovers by the Sharks in the neutral zone as they fought for zone time, but as the first wound down, the pace of play began to speed up. The quickness the Kings are known for reared its head, and the Sharks kept pace.
Of course, the amount of near-misses in front of the Kings’ net was becoming painful. Doing everything right and then being stymied by a post? Heartbreaking.
What will cure your heartbreak is the fact that Rudolfs Balcers is definitely back. With less than five minutes on the clock, Balcers picked it right up from a set-up play from Tomas Hertl on a quick, low shot. If you thought that would be it for goal-scoring in the first period, just wait — with barely three minutes left in the period, three goals were scored within 71 seconds, two of them coming from the All-Star, Timo Meier.
If you can believe it, he scored a hat trick with under three minutes left in the period, just one after another. I could barely keep up; for as much as the Kings controlled the first period, whatever struggles with goal-scoring the Sharks had the past few games seemed to melt away.
Sure, Kings captain Anze Kopitar broke the shutout bid, but the Sharks were up 4-1 to start the second period, so it was tough to be too upset about that.
The second period started off with, what else? A Timo Meier goal, his fourth of the game. At this point, I’m not convinced he’s human.
Then, due to rising tensions and the score being 5-1, Jeffrey Viel dropped the gloves with the guy who bit Brady Tkachuk twice (you know who), and they both received off-setting five-minute fighting penalties. And then, Lane Pederson was called for a high-stick. Just for reference, this was all within the first three and a half minutes of the period. The Sharks killed Pederson’s penalty, and tensions were rising like high tide.
After each big stop by Reimer, the Kings were getting visibly frustrated, slamming sticks on the ice after each thwarted attempt. Hertl took a hooking penalty, and the Sharks were back on the kill, but the special teams’ success continued, and the Kings remained locked at one.
Needless to say, there were a lot of “Beat LA” chants raining down at SAP Center at this time.
With a little over five minutes left in the second, Noah Gregor took a high-sticking penalty. The Kings were given more of an opportunity to set up high-quality scoring chances, but the Sharks’ defense was re-energized.
And now, (and you’re not going to believe me) Timo Meier. Scored. Again. At this point, it’s just getting ridiculous. Timo Meier scored his fifth goal of the game, Erik Karlsson earned his 500th NHL career assist, and I felt like I was going insane. Just so you know, Meier scored those five goals in just 11:38 of ice time. I’ll show another video of it, just because this recap is now a Timo Meier stan account.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL, TIMO MEIER HAS FIVE GOALS!!! pic.twitter.com/mDyCf9S5PO— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 17, 2022
And, courtesy of fellow Fear The Fin writer Erika Towne, here’s this perspective for reference:
Again, the Canadiens leaders for the season have 7 goals. https://t.co/PpYYsc6ItZ— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 17, 2022
The Sharks entered the third period up 6-1, with five of the goals coming from Meier, making him the first player to do so in franchise history. But Meier wasn’t the only one to make Sharks history rumble: Hertl picked up his fourth assist in the game to tie the franchise record.
The third period started off chippy, fast, and in the Kings’ zone. Whenever a Shark had the puck, it seemed to stick to them like glue. Meier had a break, and yup — there were the “Timo!” chants. SAP Center was electric.
The frenzy didn’t even dissipate after the Kings scored on Reimer, after Mikey Anderson bumped the puck in off Reimer’s skate into an open net from Drew Doughty.
With just three minutes left on the clock, Kaliyev was called for roughing, and the Sharks began their third power play of the game, having already gone two-for-two. The skater-advantage was killed off and the game ended with the Sharks (read: Timo) overwhelming the Kings, 6-2.
The most important takeaway from this game? Timo Meier isn’t human, and he is a very good hockey player. Also, these kinds of games are hell on my blood pressure.