SAN JOSE- While Game One between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings featured plenty of back and forth excitement throughout the contest, Game Two came nowhere close to the competitive level at both ends.
After the Kings took a 2-0 advantage on back-to-back power-plays late in the first period, the sound defensive squad played to their strengths. Los Angeles, who finished 6th best in the league in goals allowed per game during the regular season (2.39), effectively took away the middle of their defensive zone from the Sharks who had little in the way of dynamite scoring chances.
At the other end of the ice, the Kings controlled the puck for long stretches in the San Jose zone and the Sharks didn’t help their own cause with numerous turnovers in their own end.
Even though San Jose edged Los Angeles in shots 34-23, the Kings were by far the better offensive team all night long in what ended up as a 4-0 final.
“I thought they were a much more competitive team than we were” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan.
While the Sharks showed some energy in the first half of the opening period, power-play goals by Kings’ defensemen Jack Johnson at the 12:13 mark and Drew Doughty at the 15:43 put the Kings in a lead they wouldn’t come close to surrendering.
Johnson’s shot came from the left point that beat Sharks netminder Antti Niemi through a screen and Doughty uncorked a laser from between the circles that had no chance to be stopped.
Doughty, who ended up with a point on all four goals, made up for a rather poor performance on Thursday. Los Angeles’ brilliant young defenseman took two minor penalties in Game 1 and was beat by childhood friend Logan Couture along the boards that led to a Sharks goal.
However on Saturday night Doughty appeared to be on a mission along with the rest of the Kings defense who stepped up their game at both ends. Especially with center Jarret Stoll serving his one-game suspension, getting offense from the blue-line was a huge boost for Los Angeles.
“The right guys stepped up and produced at the right time here tonight with Doughty, Johnson on the back end” said Kings Head Coach Terry Murray.
Jonathan Quick earned his first career playoff shutout, as he saved all 34 shots he faced but it was the defenders in front of him who were excellent in clearing away rebounds and preventing the Sharks from getting to the front of the net.
Doughty would add his second goal of the game in the middle stanza and rookie tough man Kyle Clifford scored in the third to round out the scoring but for all intensive purposes the Kings didn’t need the extra insurance.
With the Sharks failing to get consistent zone time and turning the puck over frequently at both ends of the ice, the Kings took advantage by essentially playing keep away.
San Jose failed to muster any jump during the final 40 minutes and with the loss, the Kings have a legitimate opportunity moving forward to upset their second seeded division rival.
If the Kings can continue to capitalize on the man-advantage where they have scored three of their six goals through two games, this series could very easily flip upside down in quick fashion.
Both San Jose’s penalties that led to the Kings’ power-play tallies came in the offensive zone and the Sharks have had quite the abysmal penalty kill all season long. The Sharks finished in the bottom third of the league during the regular season and thus far through two games have continued to struggle.
While many people were picking the Sharks to make quick work of the Kings in this series, LA proved on Saturday that they won’t go down as easily as expected. If the Kings can continue to get early leads as the series continues, the Sharks may be in for a world of hurt.
Not only did the young studs in Doughty and Johnson contribute big time at both ends in Game Two but veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell were Johnny on the spot to chip pucks out of danger throughout the game. The Kings may not be score at a high rate but they are extremely stingy in their own zone and can very quickly switch into an effective shut-down mode after taking a lead.
In order for the Sharks to regain the momentum they will have to stay out of the box and at the very least come out even in the special teams battle. San Jose remains the deeper squad and should bounce back with better even strength efforts but they can ill afford to consistently come out on the losing end on special teams like they have the first two games.
As the series moves forward, keep an eye on who scores the first goal of the game. Every team in the league wins more games in which they open the scoring but in this series in particular, getting on the board first might prove to be extra critical.