Sharks’ Drive On Clear Display In Win Over Kings
SAN JOSE — After a strong start, the San Jose Sharks kept their feet on the metal against their division rival and now they can turn off their minds for a few days.
Head coach Todd McLellan questioned his team’s internal drive on Monday and the Sharks responded by swarming the Los Angeles Kings relentlessly in a 4-2 win at SAP Center on Wednesday, sending themselves into the All-Star break on a positive note.
“The win, the score, everything we’re happy with,” McLellan said. “But what’s most satisfying is the competitiveness that we showed up with. We shouldn’t need to talk about it, but now that it was there throughout 20 players, it should go recognized.”
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead against the New Jersey Devils on Monday, the Sharks let their feet off the gas and wound up losing 5-2, triggering concerns about their internal drive from their coach.
The Sharks opened the scoring, again, on Wednesday, but this time they kept pushing until the final horn sounded. Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 10:44 of the first period, carrying the puck into the Kings zone from his own blue line, dancing around defenseman Alec Martinez before cutting in and beating Jonathan Quick on the short side.
Couture may have received a boost from having Metallica’s lead singer James Hetfield on the microphone to announce the Sharks starting lineup.
“That was one of the best experiences I’ve had during hockey, so cool,” he said.
Team Teal finished the frame holding a 1-0 lead, the first time in 10 outings that they haven’t surrendered a first period tally.
“We get the lead, we get through the first period without giving up anything, that’s been a sore spot for us,” alternate captain Joe Pavelski said. “Right off the start, the competition level was there and when that’s there, when guys are engaged all the small stuff seems to take care of itself.”
The Sharks kept pressing in the second. Couture nearly scored on a breakaway and Tyler Kennedy almost put the puck in on a 2-on-1 attempt after receiving a nifty pass from James Sheppard. But the Kings scored next, tying the game at 1-1 after Dustin Brown banked a wraparound attempt in off goalie Antti Niemi.
The goal could have deflated the Sharks, but the guys on the bench weren’t discouraged.
“We were just going to keep going after it,” Patrick Marleau said. “It wasn’t going to work by sitting back, obviously. So if the chances are there, you’ve got to keep working for them until they go in.”
McLellan said the Sharks ability to bounce back after the tying goal is a reflection of the mental toughness they played with on Wednesday.
“We didn’t get too nervous, too panicky about it,” he said. “We did have chances that we weren’t able to score on or we got a little too cute on some out-numbered rushes. But I didn’t sense on the bench that the guys were saying, uh oh, we’re in trouble now because we didn’t score.”
Once again, special teams wound up being the difference in this Pacific Division rivalry. The Sharks surrendered two goals on the penalty kill in a 3-1 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles on Dec. 27. But this time it was their turn to do damage with the extra man.
Patrick Marleau scored the go-ahead goal in front of the Kings net by deflecting a Couture pass from the left point with the man advantage late in the second period. Later in the third, Pavelski scored the game-winning tally on the power play by jumping on a loose puck in close after it hopped over Marleau’s stick.
After the power play did its work, the penalty kill finished the job.
The Sharks spent the last three minutes and 22 seconds of the game playing shorthanded after Brenden Dillon took a hooking penalty and the Kings pulled Quick trailing by a pair of goals. The team killed off the Dillon penalty, which became a two-man advantage with Quick on the bench, and then went to work again in a 6-on-4 situation after Joe Thornton received a boarding penalty with 32 seconds left on the clock.
The Kings capitalized in the final minute with a Jeff Carter goal before Couture iced the game with an empty-netter.
With the win, the Sharks (25-17-6) moved back into second place in the Pacific Division with 56 points, stretching their lead over the Kings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference to four points.
After a tumultuous week, the victory also gives the Sharks an opportunity to relax during the All-Star break before they dive into the stretch run.
“That was the goal,” McLellan said. “When they leave the rink now we want them to turn it off. Turn off the thought process, turn everything off and recoup — that’s why it’s a break. The bodies need to heal a little bit, the mind needs to heal and then when they return and we begin to practice again, let’s turn the systems back on. It’s a whole lot better doing that with a win than a loss.”