Not enough, and not in time. Said another way: despite coming back from 3-1 down after the LA Kings scored a shorthanded goal Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks piled up two points but are still doing too little, too late.
The game was notable for the way LA, as their coach said after, lost a point, rather than gaining one in what would eventually be a 4-3 OT loss. It was also significant for a youngster named Jordan Spence, born in Sydney, Australia. He was the first Australian-born player to make an NHL roster. You might remember that Australian Nathan Walker played for Washington (twice), Edmonton (a pair of games) and St. Louis, a total of 34 games to date. He was born in Wales. Currently, he is in the AHL with Springfield.
Spence is Canadian, and he starred at the World Junior tournament last year for Team Canada. His home squad was Moncton, and later Val d’Or, of the QMJHL. His family was in attendance for his NHL debut. Spence was a fourth-round pick of the Kings in 2019, 95thoverall. This year, he has played for Ontario, the Kings’ AHL affiliate, appearing in 46 games with four goals and 38—yes, 38—assists.
His insertion into the lineup came because of the depletion of the Kings’ roster due to injuries. Four regulars were out for the evening (some for longer): defensemen Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson, forwards Viktor Arvidsson, and Brendan Lemieux.
For San Jose, Eric Karlsson picked up two assists in his return from injury. He had not played since January 20th.
The Sharks now sport a record of 25-25-7 for 57 points, fully ten behind second wildcard holder Dallas. They are 3-4-3 in their last ten games. By the way, that spot behind Dallas makes them seventh in the wildcard race, where only the top two get in.
The Kings, with their point gained, are four points up on Vegas in second in the Pacific. The Golden Knights didn’t help their own cause on Thursday, losing an away game in Buffalo with the distraction of Jack Eichel’s return perhaps in their peripheral vision.
For San Jose, Zach Sawchenko got his first NHL victory, stopping 33 shots on the night. It didn’t look from the start like he would get that win. In fact, you could say that almost all of the Kings’ three goals were a bit shaky on the goalie’s part. He punched rebounds out for LA players to devour on more than one occasion.
Two of the LA goals, in fact, came in an eight-second window of time, as they roared back down the ice after Phillip Danault’s tying goal and potted another one. This was not the team record for quickest two goals, btw: that is six seconds, which happened three times over the past: in 1999, 1972, and 1968. The second goal, and the second of the two quick ones, was a shot from the top of the left circle by Andreas Athanasiou which should certainly have been had by Sawchenko, but does that matter in what would eventually turn out to be a two-standings-points gain by his club?
The other unpleasing aspect of the game from the LA (coach’s) point of view was that while the Kings pulled back from being down a goal early to take an eventual 3-1 lead, they then sat on that advantage and lost it. The goal that tied the game came early in period three, in fact, as opposed to being an goalie-pulled, last-minute effort, so they had lots of time to get it back as period three wound along. They were slightly better in shots on goal, 10-8, in the third, and in fact won that race in all three periods on the way to 36 SOG, to San Jose’s 30.
Jonathan Quick took the loss in the Kings’ net, but not without some of his usual magic, as in a leg save he made to block a cross-ice pass shortly after his team had gone ahead, 2-1. The goal that beat him, and the Kings, to end the game in OT was on a wrap-around by Hertl, who went right to left and tucked the puck into the open side. No way you can blame the goaltender for that.
The Kings were not helped by taking six minor penalties, to San Jose’s four, on the night. The first and third San Jose goals came on the power play. The Kings, in the form of Trevor Moore, got their third goal shorthanded. After the game, part of Coach McLellan’s comments revolved around the penalties, as he pointed out that four of the six of them happened in the offensive zone. Moore was most productive for the Kings, with a goal and two assists. Athanasiou and Danault also had two points apiece.
Moore’s shorthander might have been reprised later in the game, as during the third period, Danault and Kempe charged down two-on-one shorthanded. The puck came over from left to right off Danault’s stick, but hit Kempe’s skate after he couldn’t get a stick on it. It almost bounced in anyway.
On the night, four Sharks—Hertl, Karlsson, Burns, and Barabanov—had two-point outings.
The teams won’t let each other much out of their respective sights, as they play a total of three games against each other in eight days. The next on is Saturday night in San Jose. Each team plays others then before this mini-series wraps up in LA on Thursday.
Coach McLellan was happy with Spence’s night. He said afterwards, “He did a real good job . . . . That’s not an easy night to come in and play.”
He added, “I’m happy for him that he got the opportunity, and he didn’t disappoint.” Spence played 14:23 and had two shots and two hits.
McLellan’s other comments mostly expressed disappointment with his club’s sloppy play and lack of execution. “We overworked some players, underworked others, there was no rhythm in the game. We played right into their hands. Their special teams are very good, so it was not a good night for us.”
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.