You kind of have to wonder what game the San Jose Sharks watched Tuesday night in LA. After they lost despite firing nearly twice the shots at Jonathan Quick than the Kings did at Antti Niemi, several, including Dan Boyle, said that the Kings were beatable.
History would say that’s so. In fact, Jonathan Quick doesn’t even have a winning record against them, going 8-4-5 in 18 tries. And he was yanked in a game against them on March 14 when he let in three goals on facing 12 shots in less than half of regulation time.
But since dropping the first two games of the playoffs, almost singlehandedly, he has been a brick wall. He’s played every game, obviously, and coming into Thursday, he had let in six goals in five contests with two shutouts. Six, five, two, zero — the last, the times it’s been even close or threatening. Quick’s numbers coming into Thursday, when the two teams played Game 2, were 1.36 GAA and .953 save percentage.
San Jose might not like the idea, but when the Kings machine gets rolling, it can’t be easily stopped. Check classic literature for a parallel example. Henry Adams’ essay, “The Dynamo and the Virgin,” about a long-past World’s Fair. Adams looks at the whirling machine, realizing that a whole new age has come, that the power of that electricity is like the power of the Virgin Mary to get things done in an earlier era.
But woe betide the person who tried to halt that machine, and that’s the message for those who would seek to stop the Kings. Or at least, that was true early on Thursday night, and late, if not in the middle.
And that’s not to say the Sharks didn’t try. With Raffi Torres suspended, his spot on the line of Marleau and Couture taken by Joe Pavelski, the Sharks came out flying. Before eight seconds had elapsed, they had jumped down the ice and taken two dangerous angle shots on Quick.
They were also without Adam Burrish, who was a presence on their fourth line. In his place was Tim Kennedy. That is, Kennedy was on the playing roster. As for the lines, they were kind of all over the place. For instance, Pavelski, Desjardins and Wingels were a unit on Tuesday. Thursday, they were on three different lines. Kennedy, by the way, was with Desjardins and someone called Bracken Kearns.
San Jose’s strategy of shoot first, ask questions later obviously not working in game one, the Sharks predicted that the way they would score was to get a “greasy” goal. But they also lamented two things about Quick — his size and his aggressiveness. So to counter that, they tried to work the puck close to the net in Game 2. That is, aside from those two dangerous longer shots in the first eight seconds.
Nothing worked early on, and the Kings potted two goals in their first handful of shots. At the end of the first period they had a goal on four shots. By 4:10 of the second, it was 2-0. It looked like this was going to be a rollover, and thoughts of predicting a quick end to the series were lingering in people’s minds.
Then the Sharks took advantage of the Kings getting back on their heels. Their first goal, about midway through the second period, was what an old-time commentator would have called a “nifty passing play.” The puck came from the left side to the slot, was passed by Couture from there to the right corner, where Thornton scooted it out front to Marleau, who had to make a tiny redirect to put it in the net. Quick had no chance. The defense were just standing around, and the Kings forwards were just two, because Martinez was just coming back onto the ice after serving a penalty, that he took during a Kings power play, to make it worse.
Coach Darryl Sutter said after that his power play “wasn’t a [single] unit. I think we used 14 guys on the power play tonight.” He cited the team’s PK as an important reason for the game’s turn, holding the Sharks to one goal scored just after the power play of San Jose had expired, as noted.
So it was 2-1. San Jose would eventually go up 3-2. Coach Todd McLellan of San Jose thought that his team had done well in attacking the goalie, as he should have, since the Sharks got three goals in a row between mid-period two and mid-period three. He said, “We got to Jonathan Quick, for three. That’s a lot. They gave up three one game against St. Louis; it’s been gooseggs after that. One or two. We got three, but when you get three, you’d better beat this team.” It looked for all the world like they would. Storylines that had the Kings rolling over San Jose and ending their playoff hopes quickly in the series were trashed in favor of “San Jose found its game” stories.
The Kings didn’t improve their play as the second period wound on, but after the game, their coach didn’t seem worried about any problematic stretches.
“We played solid,” Sutter said. “Every question you ask sounds like we shouldn’t have won the game. It’s the playoffs. When you go to sixteen teams in the playoffs, there’s a good chance that each team is going to be leading the game at some point. I have yet to have a series or a game where one team totally controls the whole game. I was hoping the experience of you watching, you’d grab onto that.”
Well, the LA squad would have lost, but for the events of the last two minutes. The Kings were still down 3-2 at that point when they took advantage of a five-on-three power play to tie the game. Twenty-two seconds later, they got another to win it in regulation.
The dynamo and the Virgin, once more. The unstoppable machine, and San Jose seems to know it.
Logan Couture, with the longest face possible, said “Get over it. Go home and get ready to play.” But he also said, “They hacked me, slashed me about six times and they didn’t call it. Then we get those penalties.” He carried on: “We’re a veteran group in here. We know the calls will even out eventually. It hit Carter in the shoulder and goes out of play, and they call it a penalty.” When asked if it hit the LA player, Couture said, “Yeah. Yeah. We could see it from the bench.”
Joe Thornton was more impassive, saying his reaction was “nothing. We can’t change it.” Speaking about the delay of game penalty that put his team two players down, he asked, “Did it go out?” and when someone said yes, he said, “That’s a penalty.”
He added that it would take “10 minutes” to put this game out of mind. “We played well. We just didn’t win. We thought we deserved a better fate, but that’s playoff hockey, so, um, they did their job; they got two at home, and now we have to go home and do our job.”
That’s true, but it kind of forgets something — that while the Sharks were wrong about playing better Tuesday, they would be right to say they had on Thursday. But they still didn’t win.
Their coach said, “The most important thing they have to know is that we believe in them.”. He said they’d go home and make some adjustments. “We’ve got to wake up in the morning and feel good about what we did for 59 minutes. Obviously, we don’t want to go down five-on-three against that power play. But there’s a lot of good to take out of that game. Like a lot; dislike the fact that we lost.”
They should also dislike the fact that luck doesn’t seem to be on their side. Each team had 31 shots. The LA team had 10 blocked, San Jose 15. In the faceoff circle, the Kings were a dismal 38 percent, surely close to a modern record for futility. It came down, in the end, to San Jose winning the game in most aspects, but getting a crummy break near the end that allowed it to turn against them. Sutter might be right that things teeter-totter in the playoffs since the teams are very evenly matched. But if that’s the case, this series should be 1-1. The fact that it’s 2-0 for the Kings portends an early end.
Sutter was in fine form at the beginning of his press conference, talking about the $79 he had to spend for reading glasses after he lost his. “I can get three pairs of these things for twenty bucks at Costco,” he said.
Kopitar missed a few minutes after getting a Dustin Brown puck to the cheek.
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