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Quick Bites: Sharks go big (at home) to shut out Kings

Nothing soothes the soul quite like a San Jose Sharks win. Not to get too ahead of myself, but if you weren’t able to catch all the action in real-time, just know that it was the best the team has looked in a long time and you definitely should be regretting not watching the game.

Prior to puck drop, goaltender Alex Stalock joined defender Ryan Merkley when he was reassigned to the San Jose Barracuda, Radim Simek was placed on injured reserve and Noah Gregor was a healthy scratch, making room for Jeffrey Viel. Oh, and Adin Hill made his debut, after being on IR for what felt like forever.

The Los Angeles Kings controlled the first five minutes of the game, but for every three pucks that made it into the offensive zone, the Sharks were able to bring at least one out and generate an offensive push the other way. There were a lot of odd-man rushes for both teams, which generally isn’t ideal, but what was instantly palpable was how confident San Jose was feeling.

Sure, they were facing an injured Kings roster that would deplete even further throughout this game, but to this point in the season, LA has been a formidable opponent, determined to hang onto a playoff spot no matter what. The big chances that the Sharks were getting at 5-on-5 were a good indication that they weren’t intimidated, and were feeling cohesive and responsive in their own zone, enough to stage breakouts and rush the net consistently.

Also, Jonathan Dahlen looked like the standout rookie we’ve always known he is, and there’s truly nothing better than seeing a player believe in themselves again.

As competent as San Jose seemed at even-strength, the real nail in the coffin was special teams. For all that fans love to (hashtag) beat LA, the players feel the rivalry too, and penalties abounded, much to the dismay of the Kings. On the first power play of the game, Timo Meier was able to keep a puck in the zone on a failed clear and open the scoring.

Just two minutes later, California boy Matt Nieto doubled the score after Cal Peterson (and the puck) languished behind the net. Peterson was barely back in the crease when the puck bounced out and in for Nieto.

Needless to say, the Sharks were feeling good, and they felt even better after a strong penalty kill (although it was easy pickings, considering the Kings’ power play is 28th in the league).

The Sharks lost a little bit of steam in the final five minutes, although Nick Bonino and Dahlen didn’t get the memo, and eventually, it paid off. In the final 48 seconds of the first period, Dahlen, who previously had one assist in the last seven games, put the puck in the five-hole on a feed from Meier.

The second period was a natural continuation from the first. Starting fast and strong, Dahlen and the third line (Bonino, Nieto and Cogliano) were instantly noticeable. The Kings never back down, however, and they kept pushing, although they lost some momentum when Dustin Brown was hit in the hand with the puck and had to leave the game, his hand wrapped in a bloody towel.

It was a death knell for the Kings, who have lost four players in the last five games, and in this game alone, lost Dustin Brown and Matt Roy (lower-body injury). Blake Lizotte was called for a hold around the halfway mark and Tomas Hertl took advantage for another power play goal off the rebound, for a 4-0 lead.

Scott Reedy and Viel scrambled for a goal in the final five minutes, although it was swiftly called off for goaltender interference. But the fact that players from all four lines were present offensively is a good sign that the Sharks’ losing skid may be on its way out. The revival of depth scoring, rookie confidence and energetic, rolling lines sparks a flicker of hope for a strong season finishing.

The third period picked up where the Sharks left off, and if there’s one thing to note from this game, it’s that the return of Erik Karlsson and Jaycob Megna, both of whom were excellent, also meant that the rest of the team was responsive and attentive on the backcheck, doing wonders for their usual woes of own-zone defensive coverage.

The period also opened with off-setting roughing minors for Viel and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, but like, is anyone surprised? Viel is a high-impact, physical player, and when combined with the fact that larger fringe players are (unfortunately) expected to drop the gloves and play aggressively in order to fulfill a specific role to stay up with the team, Viel getting hands-on with someone was to be anticipated.

To their credit, the depleted Kings were still pushing, despite the game being out of reach. Tomas Hertl, from Alexander Barabanov (who was an unsung hero this entire game when it came to beautiful passes and cleaning up loose change) put it away for a 5-0 win as the third period wound down.

Scoring five unanswered goals against the Kings, at home, in Hill’s first game back and fifth career shutout? That’s basically the best thing that’s happened all week. With the Sharks riding high on their win, I think they might be doing a little more winning than losing in the next few weeks.

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