LOS ANGELES -– It wasn’t what the NHL schedule-makers had in mind when they pitted rivals San Jose and Los Angeles against one another in the final game of the regular season.
In a meeting between two teams that were both eliminated from the postseason earlier in the week, the Kings scored the only three goals of the third period in a 4-1 win over San Jose at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon.
Brayden McNabb tallied the game-winner at 6:03 of the third period. His slap shot appeared to change direction just after a Kings power play expired, breaking a 1-1 tie.
Marian Gaborik’s insurance goal at 9:27 increased the cushion to 3-1, as he was permitted to walk in towards the crease and beat Alex Stalock for his 27th of the season. Andy Andreoff’s empty-net goal in the final minute capped the scoring.
Los Angeles outshot the Sharks for the game, 36-20, including a 17-4 margin in the third period.
The Sharks finished the season in fifth place in the Pacific Division (40-33-9, 89 points). San Jose will finish in either 11th or 12th place in the Western Conference, depending on Colorado’s game vs. Chicago later in the day.
The Sharks opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. On an early power play, Joe Pavelski fed Brent Burns with a pass through the slot, and Burns smacked in his 17th goal at 1:38.
That ended a 20-game drought for Burns, who hadn’t scored since the outdoor game against Los Angeles on Feb. 21. Joe Thornton recorded the secondary assist, his first helper in 11 games.
The Kings applied pressure for most of the second period, eventually tying it midway through. Jarret Stoll pushed a puck across the crease to Tyler Toffoli, who jammed it home.
The Sharks iced a patchwork defense, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Scott Hannan and Mirco Mueller all remained out due to injury, and Justin Braun was unable to play due to an illness. John Scott, who has played on the blue line at various times throughout his pro career, took Braun’s place.
The Sharks and Kings split their first four meetings before Saturday, including Los Angeles’ 2-1 win at Levi’s Stadium in front of more than 70,000 fans. The Kings wore their sweaters from that outdoor game on Saturday, while the Sharks were in their standard home teals.
The Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 earlier in the week, while Los Angeles’ chances were dashed on Thursday when it lost in Calgary.
The Kings are the first defending Stanley Cup champions to miss the playoffs since the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes.
The Sharks were 1-for-3 on the power play. The Kings were officially 0-for-3, although McNabb’s goal came one second after Brenden Dillon’s hooking minor expired.
San Jose finished the season 55-for-254 on the power play (21.7 percent), good for sixth in the NHL, but the penalty killing was just 172-for-223 (78.4 percent), or 25th in the league.
Stalock ended up starting five of the final eight games. He finished the season with an 8-9-2 mark, allowing three goals on 35 Kings shots.
Antti Niemi, a pending unrestricted free agent whose future with the Sharks is uncertain at best, acted as backup.
Jonathan Quick made 19 saves and improved to 14-6-5 in his career vs. San Jose. His best stop came on a Melker Karlsson one-timer with 4:28 left in the third period.
Along with Niemi, the Sharks have three other pending unrestricted free agents: Hannan, Scott and Matt Irwin.
Mike Brown returned after a one-game absence, slotting in on the fourth line. Tomas Hertl and Ben Smith filled out the rest of the fourth line, while 29-year-old Bryan Lerg skated on the right wing of Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau.
Among the Kings' injured scratches were Tanner Pearson and Andrej Sekera.
The Sharks will likely hold their final media availability and clean out their lockers early next week, after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
The NHL draft lottery is on April 18.