LOS ANGELES -– On the morning of the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter deflected a question about the Sharks being perhaps a more resilient club than in years past.
“I don’t know, what does that mean? More resilient?” Sutter asked.
He should have a better idea now, and it didn’t even require a dictionary.
Despite giving up the first goal, and allowing a second period shorthanded marker that could have been a backbreaker, the Sharks’ effort and game plan never wavered in a 4-3 triumph on Thursday night at Staples Center. Joe Pavelski’s early third period goal and some key saves by Martin Jones later in the final frame proved to be the difference.
For San Jose, its first playoff game was an extension in some ways of its regular season. The Sharks won on the road after leading the NHL with 28 wins. They didn’t let the first goal on the road get them down after going an impressive 9-8-2 in such situations. And Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners, got the first one of the playoffs.
“I liked our game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we deserved the win, and we found a way to win.”
Prior to Pavelski giving the Sharks the lead for good, Tomas Hertl scored probably the biggest goal of the night for San Jose. Just 30 seconds after Trevor Lewis staked the Kings a 3-2 advantage on a shorthanded two-on-one rush, Hertl located a loose puck in front of the net and slid it over the line with 2:12 to go in the middle frame.
“That was a tough goal to give up,” DeBoer said of Lewis’ score, “and for us to respond immediately like that, I think that was a key moment in the game.”
On the game-winner, the 190-pound Pavelski held off the 224-pound Anze Kopitar behind the net before finding daylight on a wraparound just 17 seconds after the puck dropped.
“I was just able to spin off him there at the last second,” Pavelski said. “It kind of pops up on edge and sticks to my stick there a little bit, and it allows me to swing around a little bit quicker.”
After going 28-10-3 on the road in the regular season, the Sharks were relaxed going into the third period of a tie game in a hostile environment.
“I think we’re a confident team,” DeBoer said. “Obviously we have a lot of respect for L.A. and the building we’re playing in, but there was no panic there. … We fell behind 1-0, and 3-2, and both times came back with big responses. I think we’re comfortable on the road, and I thought we played a real good road game.”
In net, Jones stopped all eight shots he saw while preserving that slim third period lead. In the final minute with Los Angeles pressuring for the tying goal with Jonathan Quick pulled for an extra attacker, he helped the club withstand seven Kings shot attempts in the closing moments.
Making his first career playoff start, Jones was victimized by Jake Muzzin less than three minutes into the game, coming out of the crease a bit too aggressively before Muzzin banked in a shot off of Hertl’s skate in the crease. In the second, Jeff Carter tied the game at 2-2 on a shot that directed in off of Brent Burns’ stick.
He didn’t get rattled, despite admitting to some pregame jitters.
"You’re lying to yourself if you’re not nervous,” Jones said. “Felt more comfortable as the game went on, and felt like I was getting more settled in.”
The goalie was just as resilient as the skaters in front of him.
“That was the story of the night, I think,” Pavelski said. “Just the strength from our guys to really not change the way we’re playing. … It’s just good to see guys step up at those moments.”