LOS ANGELES – The assumed primary advantage that the Kings have over the Sharks in their first round playoff series is the matchup of the two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie, who always seems to raise his game at the biggest moments, against his former protégé that hadn’t started a single playoff game in his brief career before Thursday.
Game 1 went to the protégé.
Martin Jones wasn’t perfect – he misplayed the first Kings goal, coming way out of the crease to try and stop Jake Muzzin, who eventually directed in the opening score of off Tomas Hertl’s skate – but he settled in and played admirably in the Sharks’ 4-3 win.
Jones finished with 21 saves on 24 shots, while former teammate Jonathan Quick allowed four goals on 23 Sharks shots.
“Any time you get a win, it’s huge. We’ve got a long way to go, though,” Jones said.
Two Kings goals came off of Sharks players – Muzzin’s, and another in the second period when Jeff Carter got a fortunate bounce off of Brent Burns’ stick. Trevor Lewis’ shorthanded goal was just a fabulous one-man effort from the Kings forward.
Jones saw plenty of playoff action from the bench as Quick’s backup for two seasons, including the 2014 Stanley Cup run. He’s witnessed the kind of strange goals that can change the momentum of a game or series, even if he didn’t experience it first-hand.
“I didn’t want to panic or change anything. That’s playoff hockey,” he said of the two goals-against off of Sharks players. “There’s a lot of bounces around the net, and that’s how goals are scored. Just wanted to stick with it and not change anything, and just play my game.”
The Sharks did a good job in front of Jones, too, holding the Kings to just 14 shots through two periods before sitting back a bit in the third while trying to protect a lead.
In the final minute-and-a-half with Quick pulled for an extra attacker, Jones and the six Sharks skaters withstood eight Kings shot attempts. Four missed the net, Jones stopped three, and Chris Tierney, who had a solid game, blocked a Tyler Toffoli blast with 40 seconds to go.
San Jose finished second in the NHL in shots allowed in the regular season with just 27.4 per game (the Kings were third with 27.5 per game).
Jones said: “A lot of blocked shots. The guys have done a great job all year. I’ve said it over and over. It showed there in the last minute.”
As for beating Quick – does that carry any weight?
“We’re playing the L.A. Kings, that’s the biggest thing. It’s not about me or Quickie,” he said.
“Our motivation is to win a Stanley Cup. He’s obviously proven he’s one of the best goaltenders, especially in the playoffs, so we’ve got our work cut out for us ahead.”