The Office showed its final episode on Thursday night after ten years on the air. It was a great send-off, and it got me thinking about my favorite quotes from the show. While his stolen Wayne Gretzky quote is absolute gold, the one I use most often in real life is this one.
Well, well, well... how the turntables.
And the turns sure did table tonight. After benefiting from a late 5-on-3 in Game 2, the Los Angeles Kings were faced with the same challenge tonight, with even higher stakes: not a late one-goal lead, but a tie game heading into sudden death. The Kings were 20 seconds away from getting back to even strength, but Logan Couture sealed the deal to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 win and a lifeline in the series.
Things got turned around in other ways tonight as well. For instance, tonight it was the Sharks who got off to a perfect start. And eerily, it was a puck over the glass incident which made it happen. Jake Muzzin went to the box for violating the rule that no one likes, and the Sharks scored a textbook power play goal. Joe Pavelski won the faceoff to Patrick Marleau, who passed to Dan Boyle, whose point shot beat Jonathan Quick over the right shoulder. Joe Thornton ran traffic and made minor contact with Jonathan Quick, but it didn't seem to influence his ability to make the save. Quick was unhappy with the refs; he'd get a lot angrier later, but on the way, he made 38 saves. Yep, despite the loss, his playoff save percentage actually improved. He's playing pretty well.
A lot of people were really excited about the announcement that Dustin Penner, Trevor Lewis, and Tyler Toffoli would play together in Game 3, and they had a pretty good evening overall. They also produced the only Kings goal tonight, midway through the first. Penner and Lewis finished off a successful penalty kill, and Toffoli joined them after the Kings cleared their zone. Antti Niemi banked the puck around the end boards to Brad Stuart, whose lazy pass was out of the reach of Scott Hannan. Toffoli picked off the errant feed and nearly lost control of the puck, but he recovered and sent a hard backhand past Niemi to even the score. With the exception of the second line (who suffered at the hands of Thornton and Brent Burns), the forwards played reasonably well, but they wouldn't beat Niemi again.
(The other rookie, you ask? Tanner Pearson made his NHL debut, but only played 5:44 and got just eleven seconds of ice time in the third period. He didn't look overwhelmed, but I'd be surprised to see him in Game 4.)
From there until the end of regulation, injuries were the main talking point. The oft-injured Martin Havlat left the game in the first and didn't return. Justin Williams was crushed (cleanly) by Brad Stuart late in the first period and missed a few shifts in the second, but he would come back to the ice. Scott Hannan got dinged up by the boards but returned pretty swiftly. And Logan Couture was absent for a fifteen-minute stretch after falling awkwardly into the boards after a Jeff Carter check, but he, too, would return. No fault of Carter's own tonight, as Couture's skates were more to blame for getting caught up on the play, but Carter's going to need to watch his back if Sharks keep going down in his presence.
Back to the game itself: the goalies were locked in tonight. Quick came way out to deny Dan Boyle near the end of the first and made a huge pad stop on Andrew Desjardins in the second, while Niemi was game in the San Jose net. It looked like the goalies' efforts would keep the offenses frustrated through regulation and beyond, but the Sharks received a golden opportunity at the end of the third. At the three-minute mark the Kings finished killing a Dustin Brown slashing penalty, but Robyn Regehr put the Sharks back on the advantage when he was forced to hook Tommy Wingels in front of the net with 41 seconds left. LA held off the Sharks and Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis drove the other way with a chance to win it shorthanded, but the Richards shot was blocked by Boyle and Lewis barrelled into Niemi while being pressured from behind by Patrick Marleau. To the chagrin of the Kings, Lewis was called for goaltender interference with three seconds left. Though the game made it to overtime and the Kings killed off the first of the two penalties, it felt inevitable when Logan Couture finished off a feed from Marleau to win the game 1:29 in.
The refs are going to let things go late in playoff games, but they have to call what they see as a no-doubt penalty, right? In Game 2, the Brad Stuart trip was on a clear-cut Toffoli scoring chance, while in Game 3, the Robyn Regehr hook was on a clear-cut Wingels scorning chance. In Game 2, if the refs didn't believe Marc-Edouard Vlasic's clear touched Jeff Carter, it's a definite two minutes. And in Game 3, if the refs didn't believe Trevor Lewis was pushed into Antti Niemi, it's a definite two minutes. The Kings (other than Jonathan Quick, who got a 10-minute misconduct for yelling at the refs, and Dustin Penner) kept some perspective and seemed ready to move on.
Certainly we’re not happy with the calls, but what team really is?
It is what it is. Can’t change it now. We need to focus on the next game.
And after two consecutive games of late penalties dramatically influencing the result (one each way), the refs are going to be more eager than ever to let the teams play.