LOS ANGELES – In their four-game series sweep of Vancouver, the Sharks took advantage of confusion, turmoil, and a season-long goalie controversy in the Canucks' crease.
Ain’t nothin' like that in Los Angeles.
Reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick stopped all 35 Sharks shots he saw in Game 1 on Tuesday night at Staples Center, backstopping his team to a 2-0 win and an early lead in the best-of-seven second round series.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks shut out in Game 1]
The Kings scored late in the first period after a defensive zone breakdown by the Sharks to take the lead on a Slava Voynov blast, and pushed it to 2-0 in the second when a Voynov shot deflected in off of Mike Richards in the only offense from either team.
Quick did the rest, including stopping 16 shots in the third period. San Jose outshot the Kings for the game, 35-20, but Quick made sure that differential didn’t matter.
“You get  shots, which is hard to do against this team. Some way, we’re just going to have to find a way to beat him,” Joe Thornton said.
Joe Pavelski said: “There’s a better way. We didn’t score tonight. He was good and made the saves he had to. We’ve got to find a way to score.”
Head coach Todd McLellan seemingly downplayed Quick’s effort, and, avoiding a laundry list of clichés, indicated that his team can do a better job getting to the net and doing what’s necessary to get on the board.
Quick and the Kings held the St. Louis Blues to just 10 goals in six games in the first round, and his goals-against average is down to 1.36 through seven games.
“I spent six days reviewing the St. Louis series, and I heard a lot of the same stuff coming out of their mouths,” McLellan said. “We didn’t accomplish enough. There is a team that just played against them for six nights, and said they had a lot of chances and the goaltender made a number of saves. We can’t be that team again. We’ve got to find ways to score, and we’ve got to make it a lot harder on him.”
Converting on the power play would be a good place to start. The Sharks were 7-for-24 in the first round against Vancouver, but failed in three tries on Tuesday night. The Kings’ penalty kill is a strong suit, but the Sharks simply won’t win the series unless they can find a way to score when they’re on an advantage.
Against the Blues, the Kings allowed just two power play goals against in 17 times shorthanded. During last season’s march to the Stanley Cup, their PK was the backbone of their success.
Logan Couture was blunt when discussing San Jose’s 0-for-3 in Game 1.
“Guys weren’t committed to getting in front of him, so that needs to change,” Couture said.
Why might that have happened?
“They check tight. You’ve got to beat their guy out of the corner to get to the net, and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Sharks out-skated the Kings early in the game, after not playing for an entire week. Quick made some key saves on Patrick Marleau and TJ Galiardi, among others, to keep it scoreless.
“We would have liked to score one early in that first 10 [minutes]. I think it would have changed the game,” Couture said.
A rare defensive zone mistake led to what turned out to be the game-winning goal. Late in the first period, the Kings got to a loose puck after a faceoff in their own zone, and raced up the ice. Raffi Torres failed to pick up Slava Voynov while the defense continued to back up, and Voynov walked in and unloaded a slap shot that beat Niemi to the top corner with 13 seconds go to before intermission.
Torres took responsibility for the mistake.
“When I’m coming back into my zone, I can’t be looping and giving away that shot,” he said.
Dan Boyle said: “That’s not the kind of goal you want to give up.”
Despite the defeat, the Sharks were able to take some positives from the loss. After all, when starting on the road, getting a split in the first two games is often considered a success. San Jose still has a chance to accomplish that with Game 2 on Thursday.
“Our effort was pretty good,” Boyle said. “But, it’s probably a broken record with what St. Louis went through. I read that they felt they possibly were the better team in the series, they just weren’t scoring enough goals. We’ve got to get a little hungrier and a little dirtier and a little meaner in front of their net.”
Pavelski said: “After tonight, I think everyone in this room thinks they’re beatable. It’s not going to be easy, they’re the Stanley Cup champs and the road is through them. It’s never going to be easy when you’ve got a team that’s learned how to win, but coming out of tonight, we feel we can beat them.”
That will only happen if they solve Quick.
“He’s a great goalie,” Thornton said. “We’ve just got to work harder to get to him next game.”