LOS ANGELES – One of the more underrated aspects of the Sharks’ scorching hot start is that the team has been able to stay out of the penalty box. San Jose entered Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles leading the league with nearly a half an hour more on the power play than the penalty kill.
Against the Kings, though, a too-many-men-on-the-ice minor in the third period and a hooking infraction on Justin Braun resulted in a 4-3 overtime loss at the Staples Center, as Los Angeles cashed in on both of its late power plays. The Sharks fell to 10-1-2 while the Kings are now 9-5-0.
The too-many-men penalty in the third period, their second of the night, led to Justin Williams’ game-tying goal at 12:21. That was particularly irksome to head coach Todd McLellan.
“Penalties are an issue, and too many men on the ice is an issue for me. You’d think after it happened the first time, that everybody would be a little more alert on the bench. But for the same line coming up – and maybe even the same individual – for it to happen twice, is unacceptable,” McLellan said, without identifying the perpetrator.
The hooking penalty to Braun in overtime probably prevented a Jeff Carter goal, as the Kings’ sniper got behind enemy lines and received a pass from Mike Richards. Braun had no choice but to illegally tie Carter up before he was primed to deposit a backhand in the first minute of the extra session.
“I kind of lost [Carter] for that split second,” Braun said. “He’s a big guy, long reach. … I was a step behind.”
The Kings finished 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Sharks were 1-for-4, with the one coming from Logan Couture at the end of the second period. That gave San Jose a 3-2 advantage at the break, their third one-goal lead.
It was the first time all season that the Sharks were shorthanded more times than they were on the power play.
And, it was the second time in three losses that the Sharks have had the lead three separate times. San Jose lost nearly the same way in a 4-3 loss in Dallas on Oct. 17, although that one ended in a shootout.
“When we have the lead, we should be able to shut it down,” McLellan said. “The fact that we were late into the game with a lead was somewhat disappointing, too.”
Couture said: "We could have played in Florida tonight and probably lost that game, too. We just didn’t play well enough to win."
Despite the penalties (and a rare defensive lapse, from Matt Irwin, that led to a Drew Doughty goal in the first period), it was hard to fault the Sharks’ effort against their nemesis. The Kings, too, deserve credit for playing hard despite it being the second of a back-to-back.
Shots were at a premium, with just a combined 43 in the game. Antti Niemi allowed four goals on 23 Los Angeles shots, while Jonathan Quick turned away 17 of 20 to get the win. The 20 shots were a season low for San Jose.
“We didn’t generate enough, obviously. They didn’t either,” Couture said. “We defended pretty well, even though we were sloppy. We turned the puck over in our own zone uncharacteristically. We need to be better.”
Joe Thornton said: “Both teams played good. They obviously played last night. For them to come back, they played very well at home. Both teams had a good night.”
The Sharks will get one more chance to prevail at Staples Center this season, where they are just 1-8-3 in their last 12 games, on Dec. 19. The Kings are at SAP Center three times, including their first visit on Nov. 27.
In the meantime, they’ll have something to focus on – cutting down on penalties – before a three-game homestand opens on Saturday against Phoenix.
“Some of those happen in a night, and you want to clean that up for the next game,” Braun said. “It’s a long season, hopefully you learn from it and don’t make the same mistakes.”