SAN JOSE – Through the first nine periods of the Sharks-Kings first round battle, San Jose’s edge in five-on-five play was the biggest reason it enjoyed a two-games-to-none lead with a chance to increase it to a commanding three-game advantage in overtime on Monday night.
But a pair of concurrent misplays helped the Kings claim their first win, 2-1, as Tanner Pearson’s goal at 3:47 of the extra session suddenly made this a series.
On the winner, Brenden Dillon went for the extra emphatic shove on Dustin Brown, who had just flattened Joonas Donskoi in the neutral zone. Brown managed to push the puck over the blue line, though, where Pearson snagged it behind Logan Couture who was charging out of the defensive zone. Pearson whizzed it by Martin Jones on a two-on-one.
“We went past the battle a little bit. They sprung one going the other way,” coach Pete DeBoer explained. “We didn’t give up very much all night, and they cashed in on one of the chances. That’s how it goes in overtime.”
The Kings had just 12 even strength shots before overtime, and were getting outscored 5-1 in such situations for the series to that point. That included Joe Thornton’s goal just 30 seconds into the game, which ended up being the Sharks’ only score of the night.
In fact, the Sharks had all the early energy even after the goal, playing in front of their home crowd in a playoff game for the first time in two years.
But a penalty to Tommy Wingels brought that momentum to a halt, and Anze Kopitar’s power play goal evened the score. Another minor by Nick Spaling less than four minutes after Kopitar’s goal also helped Los Angeles to outplay the Sharks for most of the opening frame.
“We came out fast and they kind of gained a little momentum there [after the penalties],” Justin Braun said. “That will happen, we just have to get it back after that.”
DeBoer said: “We took a couple penalties, a long way from our net which we can’t do. I think that kind of sucked the momentum from us. We’ve got to stay away from that.”
The game was fairly even over the second and third periods, as neither club could break the tie. The Sharks had the best looks on a third period power play when Milan Lucic slashed Braun on what can only be considered a foolish penalty.
With Lucic watching from the box, San Jose attempted 10 shots at the net but couldn’t squeeze one through. Couture had a few good looks, while Joe Pavelski flubbed a one-timer on a seam pass by Thornton that looked destined for the back of the net.
“One I believe I can hit,” Pavelski said. “It caught a little too much ice, and rolled up.”
Thornton said: “I thought he had it because he's pretty good from there, but unfortunately it didn't go in. I'm sure next time it will go in.”
The Sharks also stayed true to their regular season form, losing their first home playoff game after finishing 26th in the NHL in their own building. They won a league-best 28 road games, and added two more at Staples Center in games one and two.
DeBoer, though, seemed annoyed when that ongoing storyline was brought up again after the game.
“We played well enough to win the game tonight,” he said. “We outshot them, out-chanced them. We didn’t win. I don’t care where we win the games. It’s first team to four.”
As disappointing as the result was for the Sharks, they had no illusions that they would breeze by the Kings in four straight. The matchup is simply too even.
They’re still pleased with where their effort and overall game is, headed into what will be a crucial Game 4 on Wednesday.
“We felt like we did a lot of good things again. They were definitely a better team than the first couple of games,” Pavelski said. “It’s nothing we can’t play with … It’s still a big challenge out there, and we’re excited.”
DeBoer said: “Reality is, they’re a very good team – multiple Stanley Cup winners over there. We knew this wasn’t going to be a sweep. We’re in a good spot.”