SAN JOSE – In a potential first round preview that more resembled a playoff game than a regular season game, the Sharks beat the Kings in a shootout at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night, 3-2.
Raffi Torres scored the only goal in the shootout after Logan Couture and Dan Boyle missed the mark. Antti Niemi stopped Mike Richards to end the game and secure his 21st win.
The Sharks and Kings are tied with 53 points each. The Kings remain fourth in the conference by virtue of the tiebreaker, while the Sharks are in fifth.
Each team had its chances tied 2-2 in the third period. Joe Thornton turned the puck over the Dwight King in the slot, but Niemi made the stop with 13:32 to go.
Jonathan Quick made two saves in succession with eight minutes left, denying Tommy Wingels from the slot and then recovering in time to make a save on Torres.
Jeff Carter tried to go five-hole on Niemi on a breakaway with 6:40 to go, and beat the Sharks’ goaltender, but it trickled just wide. Carter also had the best chance in overtime on a two-on-one with Richards , but Niemi got his attempted backhand with his left pad.
The Sharks and Kings meet once more on April 27 in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Sharks scored twice in the second, but the Kings answered with two of their own.
Dustin Penner turned the puck over to a hard charging Brent Burns, and Burns’ shot floated over the shoulder of Quick at 8:48. On the very next shift, Burns found TJ Galiardi in front of the net, and Galiardi managed to poke it in with Drew Doughty defending him in front of the net at 9:30.
The Kings went on a two-man advantage for more than a minute on penalties to Galiardi and Jason Demers. Niemi made some spectacular saves on the ensuing advantage, including a glove save on Richards’ slap shot from the circle, but Jake Muzzin’s slap shot from just inside the blue line had eyes at 13:59 after Galiardi’s penalty had expired.
Los Angeles made it 2-2 when Dustin Brown found a loose puck in the crease after Anze Kopitar skated it on net. Moments earlier, Patrick Marleau failed to get his stick on a difficult pass through the slot from Couture, while looking at an open net. That miss led to the Kings’ rush the other way.
The goals were only part of the story through the first 40 minutes, as the game had a nasty tone from the very beginning. Joe Pavelski and Jarret Stoll did some pushing and shoving in the corner, and later Pavelski and Justin Williams jostled along the benches before Tommy Wingels intervened. Williams then threw a jab at Wingels’ head and the pair received coincidental minors.
Shortly after the Sharks took a 2-0 lead, Kyle Clifford tried to engage Adam Burish and then Burns, and Burish and Brad Richardson wrestled a bit after Richardson’s hit on the Sharks’ forward earned him a roughing minor.
Midway through the third, Penner hit Thornton into the Sharks’ defensive zone, and the captain went face first into the glass.
The Sharks were 0-for-3 with a man advantage. Los Angeles finished 1-for-3.
Niemi made his 30th start in the last 31 games, playing on back-to-back nights after shutting out the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday. He made 41 saves on 43 Kings shots, and his 21 wins tie him for the league lead with Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom.
Quick made 33 saves, and has allowed two or fewer goals in his last three starts.
Scott Hannan made his first appearance since he was acquired via trade with Nashville on April 3. Hannan had been recovering from a neck injury, and skated 17 minutes and 39 seconds paired with Dan Boyle.
Matt Irwin was scratched for the first time since Feb. 26.
The Sharks remain home for games against Minnesota on Thursday, Columbus on Sunday, and Dallas on April 23. They close out the regular season with games in Phoenix on April 24 and Los Angeles on April 27.