To the playoffs we go. GKG. - USA TODAY Sports
At the Staples Center, the Kings hold off the Sharks for a 3-2 regulation victory, allowing them to move ahead of San Jose in the final standings. For the fourth straight season, the Kings finish second in the Pacific Division. They will begin their official defense of the Stanley Cup in St. Louis.
Los Angeles Kings threw away a chance to earn home ice in Round 1 with a couple of lackluster performances against the Wings and the Wild, Saturday offered the Kings a chance to choose their opponent and finish the regular season on a high note. They did just that, beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Fan Appreciation Night to earn the fifth seed in the West.
Box Score] [ Zone Starts] [ Shot Differential] [ Head to head matchups] [ Video Highlights]
The Kings were without
Dustin Brown, who was serving the second game of his suspension, but the new first line of Clifford-Kopitar-Carter offered us a chance to see a different look than we're accustomed to seeing from the Brown-Kopitar-Williams. It took a while for them to get going, but to be fair, that was the case for everybody; no one had a shot on goal for the first six minutes. But while noted Corsi monster Justin Williams had the best even-strength possession numbers of any forward, the entire first line controlled the play well and got the brunt of the shots. The first period at large was pretty lackadaisical, which might account for the lack of goals. One interesting subplot developed as neither team took a penalty for the first two periods; read into it what you want, but if it was a gentleman's agreement between the two teams not to hurt each other in the season's final game... well done!
Did Darryl Sutter and Todd Richards yelled at their teams to start scoring goals? Or maybe the Kings heard that Bob Miller had joined Sharks announcers Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda in the NBCSN booth, and they wanted to give him something to gloat about. In sharp contrast to the first 20 minutes (again, not a single shot on goal in six minutes), the second period saw three goals within six minutes. The first came courtesy of
Kyle Clifford, after Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll, and Williams (today's second line) got the puck deep immediately. The Sharks needed a change and made one as soon as the puck got into the neutral zone, but Williams handed the puck to Kopitar and Clifford, who quickly started a rush in the other direction. Kopitar fed to Clifford above the right circle, and though Antti Niemi got a good piece of Clifford's shot, it landed behind him and trickled in for the opening goal. However, Logan Couture came right back and scored an unassisted goal after knifing through the LA defense and flipping a backhander past Jonathan Quick.
The Kings took back their advantage five minutes later, as
Tyler Toffoli made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Brad Richardson and Rob Scuderi rotated the puck to Slava Voynov at the point. Slava's slap shot deflected off of James Sheppard and fooled Niemi; Fear the Fin (who wanted the Vancouver Canucks all along) hilariously called it Sheppard's biggest goal as a San Jose Shark. The game did remain scoreless through the remainder of the second period, with Niemi and Quick each making big stops in a 21-shot second period. One such sequence of near-misses occurred at the seven-minute mark, when Quick made a lunging pad save on Tommy Wingels and Kyle Clifford was robbed by a combination of Niemi and Wingels at the other end.
After 45 minutes of perfection, the refs finally whistled for a penalty with just fifteen minutes remaining, as
Andrew Desjardins tripped Brad Richardson (#15 was productive tonight). The ensuing power play forced a couple saves out of Niemi, but soon after Dan Boyle hit the goalpost, Justin Williams scored the goal which booked our plane tickets to St. Louis. Dustin Penner carried the puck in and whiffed on his initial shot, but he kept the puck away from San Jose for 10 seconds and fed Williams, who was darting to the front of the net. Williams executed a perfect, quick give-and-go with Richardson and tapped in the return pass to give LA a 3-1 lead. T.J. Galiardi has been a thorn in our side this season and scored with three minutes late to put the outcome in doubt, but Los Angeles held on to edge San Jose in the game... and in the standings.
We'll see you on Tuesday night in St. Louis. This is the matchup most of the readers wanted... so let's get pumped.