SAN JOSE – In a potential first round playoff preview, the Sharks and Kings had one final chance in the regular season to remind one another of their mutual distaste.
And, they took advantage of it. On Thursday night at SAP Center, the rivals played another heavy, hard-hitting, compelling and close game with the Sharks earning a 2-1 win.
Second period goals by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture allowed San Jose (49-20-9, 107 points) to draw to within one point of Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead. The Ducks have two games in hand and have clinched the tiebreaker, so a Sharks-Kings first round meeting is still the likeliest mathematical scenario.
The Kings led 1-0 after controlling the first period, but the Sharks regrouped at the break.
Just three seconds after the crowd enjoyed Dustin Brown stepping into the penalty box for a roughing minor, Burns’ bomb from the point nicked off of Pavelski to tie the game at 7:15 of the middle frame. Pavelski was stationed in front of goaltender Martin Jones on the play, after Joe Thornton won the draw.
San Jose took its first lead about five minutes later. Tommy Wingels shot was tipped in front of the net by Patrick Marleau, and Couture swooped in. He then curled it around the net at 12:13 for his 21st goal.
Like most recent Sharks-Kings tilts, the game had a decidedly physical element and nasty tone. In the second period, Thornton instigated Slava Voynov in front of the bench, resulting in some pushing and shoving and coincidental minors.
Earlier in the second, James Sheppard got a hard elbow to the mug courtesy of Alec Martinez, but a few minutes later Sheppard drilled the Kings’ defenseman into the glass with about four minutes left in the second.
In the first period, Wingels laid a big hit on Martinez himself, while Mike Brown hammered Robyn Regehr into the wall with 2:11 to go. Jason Demers was called for tripping Jake Muzzin at 18:21 after sticking his leg out to send the L.A. defenseman hurting through the air, leading to a scrum at the blue line.
San Jose had 52 hits in the game, a new franchise record. Tommy Wingels had a game-high 10.
The Kings struck for the only goal in the first period on a double deflection, with Jordan Nolan getting credit for his sixth score at 3:36. Los Angeles controlled the puck for the majority of the opening frame, outshooting the Sharks 10-5.
The Sharks’ penalty kill played a key role, denying the Kings on five advantages in just over nine minutes of power play time.
Los Angeles lost defenseman Drew Doughty in the first period. The defenseman appeared to hurt his left shoulder checking Tyler Kennedy at 8:25, and did not return.
The home team is 20-1-1 in the last 22 meetings between the two clubs, including the Kings’ 1-0 road win at SAP Center on Jan. 27. Ten of the last 13 regular season games have been decided by one goal.
San Jose blocked 27 Kings shots.
The Sharks scored a power play goal for the fourth straight game, finishing 1-for-2.
San Jose had allowed four power play goals against in its last three games before Thursday’s perfect 5-for-5 performance.
Niemi earned his 38th win, second in the league, with 26 saves. He stopped the dangerous Jeff Carter’s wrist shot on a rush with 6:40 to go in the second, and Dustin Brown’s open look early in the third deflected off of the goalie’s mask and into the safety netting with 16:45 to go. Anze Kopitar had a chance with 27 seconds left in regulation, but his shot from the faceoff dot hit Niemi in the chest.
Niemi is 7-1-0 in his career against the Kings in San Jose.
Jones started for just the second time in the last 10 games, and allowed two goals on 21 shots.
Jonathan Quick, who shut out the Sharks at SAP Center on Jan. 27, 1-0, played Wednesday night vs. Phoenix.
The Sharks mixed up all three of their forward lines. Couture, Marleau and Wingels were together for the first time since March 4, while Sheppard centered Kennedy and Matt Nieto. Mike Brown, Andrew Desjardins and Marty Havlat comprised the fourth line.
Dan Boyle extended his point-streak to six games, with three goals and three assists in that span. Burns’ streak reached five games (2g, 5a), as did Pavelski's (5g, 4a).
The Sharks have four games remaining: Saturday vs. Nashville; Wednesday, April 9 in Anaheim; April 11 vs. Colorado, and April 12 at Phoenix.