If there's one name that the Kings have to be tired of hearing about by now, it's Joe Pavelski. The Sharks captain has now scored three goals in the two games that the teams have played, and it's the name everyone is talking about after the games. The Kings did well to neutralize him (and the whole Sharks offense for that matter) as the game wore on, but it didn't matter by then.
It's fair to say that things got off to a rough start for the Kings again in night two. Just three and a half minutes in, Joe Pavelski found some space in the offensive zone after a slow Jeff Carter change. Nick Shore come onto the ice for the change, but simply didn't get to his man in time to challenge Pavelski's shot - the Sharks' first of the game for that matter. The rest of the first period looked pretty similar to the first game between the two rivals. The Sharks were able to get in and get several high quality chances in tight on Jonathan Quick, but the Kings got at least a few more chances than last time in return.
Penalties were a story too, of course. Kris Versteeg drew a penalty early in the first (and another later in the game, not bad). However, the Kings looked even less effectual on the power play than they did in the first game. The puck was kept to the perimeter for the Kings, and they were content to take mid-distance one-timers from the defensemen that missed the net or didn't offer a good deflection or rebound opportunity. As for the Sharks power play, they got two in the first period. A late and very groan-worthy hit from Luke Schenn was the reason for one, while an odd play behind the Sharks net ended with Dwight King checking the head area of Roman Polak as he fell down of his own accord trying to turn the play up the ice.
The penalties that mattered were the ones taken near identically at the mid point of the second period. Tyler Toffoli was assessed a roughing penalty for hooking Paul Martin's head as they jostled for space in front of the net, and this was followed by a Milan Lucic charge against Melker Karlsson (the puck was kind of close and the distance wasn't that far, before you freak out). This put the Sharks on a rare playoff 5 on 3, and it didn't take much to get the 2-0. Quick put himself wildly out of position to make an initial stop only to have Logan Couture in position for the dunk as neither Drew Doughty nor Jake Muzzin could stop him in their various states of falling down.
After that goal, the Kings finally came alive. They changed how defensemen joined the play, and they were making long passes, Quick included, to the opposing blue line to get things jump-started. The change in style was working, as it was giving the Kings more looks on their zone entries. The Kings even managed to establish themselves in the offensive zone a few times, even if it wasn't quite the hockey we're used to seeing from the possession monsters.
The Kings' good play would award them two more power plays in the third period, only to have one cancelled out by a Jeff Carter slash as he fought for the puck. Even with that, Carter was one of the game's best. He attempted on the net nine times and had six scoring chances to go with it. Only Marian Gaborik had more chances at seven, and boy did he look good as well. Gaborik routinely drove laterally through the high slot and was able to get Sharks defensemen to back off- something we just haven't seen much of this series.
The only goal for the good guys came on Versteeg's second generated power play. Absolute pandemonium erupted in front of the net reminiscent of what we saw at the end of game one. This time, Vincent Lecavalier was there to easily tap in the loose puck. Yet, when it came time to generate more pressure in the closing minutes, the Kings weren't able to mount the type of charge we saw in game one. The Kings dealt with multiple clears and could just never get the real quality chance they needed in tight. A lot of credit is deserved by the Sharks for not backing off too much and simply waiting to react to what the Kings did.
As depressing as the outcome was, it feels like the Kings are finally starting to turn the corner in this series. The Sharks have mitigated the Kings' strengths so well that you'd think they spent all season preparing for just this series. The Kings are having to generate opportunities in ways we're not used to seeing them do it. Kudos are deserved by players and coaches for making those adjustments, but you have to wonder if it is sustainable, or if we can expect hockey with more mistakes. As for this game, the Kings handily won the possession and scoring chance battle at evens (even generating more high danger chances than the lethal Sharks), but is it so much to ask to see that without score effects being behind it?
Jamie McBain looked competent in the absence of Martinez, if a little bit shaky in his own zone. Luke Schenn has been downright scary as he takes bad penalties, flubs outlet passes, and generally looks too slow for his age. Let's hope that Martinez gets healthy soon and Schenn is the one who sits. Perhaps it could be the magical combo like we found in 2014.