In a unique NBCSN broadcast that featured Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn and Kings color commentator Jim Fox graciously complimenting the play of each others’ teams, the Sharks defeated the Kings 4-1, snapping the Kings’ win streak at five.
Sharks-Kings games have long featured anxiety-provoking, tight-checking action, and this game was no different. The Kings and Sharks alternated offensive momentum throughout the game, a timely check here leading to a quick pass and breakout there. Most offensive chances were well covered by the physical play of both teams. The speed of play decreased over the course of the game, which surprisingly decreased the offensive momentum of the slow-reputed Kings.
But a crossbar by Marian Gaborik and a goal post by Tanner Pearson, and two opportunistic goals by the Sharks thirty seconds apart, were the difference between victory and defeat.
San Jose’s goals were opportunistic, as they were the result of broken chances by the Kings followed by skilled moves by the Sharks. Early in the game, Gaborik made his presence felt offensively with speedy play and scoring chances. But at 3:32 of the first period, Kevin Labanc scored his second NHL goal. Derek Forbort’s inability to get the puck deep on offense left not two, not three, but four Kings too deep in the offensive zone. A quick breakout the other way led to a 2-on-1 with Logan Couture passing the puck to Labanc, who alley-ooped it home. Even Drew Doughty, Couture’s friend and Norris winner, could not stop the 2-on-1 this time.
At 19:05, a puck from behind the net came to Joonas Donskoi, who shot it on goal. Couture put home the rebound for a 2-0 lead. Donskoi’s shot was tipped, creating in effect a changeup that was difficult for Peter Budaj to handle. Jordan Nolan inexplicably skated away from Donskoi, thinking that a teammate would grab the puck and start the breakout. Can’t start the offense without the puck, Jordan.
Thirty seconds later, Ryan Carpenter scored his first NHL goal. Two nifty chips of the puck off the boards to advance the puck forward, around Tyler Toffoli and then around Jake Muzzin, led to another 2-on-1 chance. Carpenter wristed the puck into the net off Budaj’s left pad, and Toffoli shook his head in disgust.
It has become uncanny how difficult it has been for Dustin Brown to find the net. Tonight, though, his efforts in front of the net paid off, as he fought off David Schlemko to jam home a rebound to break the shutout for the Kings in the second period. It wasn’t without drama, however, as the referee disallowed the goal at first and play continued on awkwardly until the next whistle.
It was too simplistic to say that Martin Jones kept the Kings out of the game with superior goaltending, as Jones was not the star. (“We shouldn’t have traded him!”) But Jones thwarted the Kings’ last stand in the final three minutes with solid saves in traffic. A long shot at the empty net by Couture--Doughty chased the puck only to fall in front of the goal post, crashing his jock strap against it--symbolized defeat for the Kings.
With the loss, the Kings remain in fourth place in a see-saw battle for the Pacific Division. The Sharks extend their division lead with 29 points, followed by the Ducks and Oilers with 26, and the Kings 25.
The Kings next face the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow, December 1, at 6:00 pm Pacific.