In what was widely considered the best professional hockey game this side of the Mississippi, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime.
Both teams came ready to play and the Sharks did their best to apply pressure down low from the start. Joe Thornton was clear prior to this one that the Sharks needed to “push back” following a lackluster performance in Los Angeles, so it was clear the Kings would need to weather some physical play early on. Doughty was very effective in moving the puck out of danger and, continuing his pattern of late, Anze Kopitar was all over the ice…the goals are coming, people, the goals are coming.
The teams traded power play chances in the first, but at 5v5, the Kings held a clear advantage. Jim Fox described the Kings’ first period play as “decisive,” and it was certainly accurate. They countered the Sharks’ busy start, attempted several quality chances and largely controlled play. But for a clinic on positional play and rebound control by Martin Jones, they'd have been on the board.
The second period started off well, with continued structure, up ice pressure and puck movement. I had been an early critic of Peter Budaj – now clearly silenced – but have come to appreciate his skill in directing pucks for his retreating defensemen. In two instances, it allowed defensemen to maintain speed coming around the net under pressure and to effective zone clearances.
The tide soon turned, however, and it began with San Jose’s bottom six forwards cycling effectively down low. Derek Forbort had a rough game and two particularly rough shifts early in the second, and his struggles reflected those of the team past the five-minute mark. Peter Budaj did what he could...
... but the Sharks’ pressure would prove too much. I want to hate Logan Couture, I really do, but damn if he’s not good. On an ill-timed step-up by Alec Martinez he entered the zone with momentum, moved slightly to the inside to create his shooting angle, and made it 1-0. It’s likely one that Budaj would say he has to stop - I’m pretty sure Sutter would - but I can’t hold it against him. The Sharks’ pressure was serious and sustained, a goal was coming one way or another.
Then, glove gate. Ok, no one will be calling it that, but whatever. With Brent Burns off for holding Kopitar, the Kings power play showed some life - no really the movement was awesome - and Marian Gaborik tied the game. Except he didn’t, because the NHL hates goals and wants to make them as hard to come by as possible. Here’s the goal...
...and here’s the NHL Situation Room’s explanation for why it was waved off. You really shouldn't watch it, it will just make you frustrated.
The second period closed with “Beat LA!” chants and Martin Jones denying Kopitar on a shorthanded breakaway, and a one goal deficit felt very, very large.
The third period was... well it was hectic and awesome, and Jeff Carter decided to put the Kings on his back - again - early. He drew a hooking penalty with a fantastic individual effort early in the period, then redirected a Muzzin slap-pass past Jones for the equalizer. If you’re Peter DeBoer, your probably don’t like the PK coverage here, but the puck movement by Doughty, Kopitar, and Muzzin deserves much of the credit.
Probably the only guy you must cover on Kings power play finds a soft spot pic.twitter.com/BBW0JBAvtX— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 4, 2017
For the rest of the period Martin Jones and Peter Budaj traded saves, yet Budaj couldn’t help but go all Quick just one time and leave the net. I’ll be honest, I was happy when the period ended and I was happy with the point, no matter what might happen in overtime.
But I am not a winner. Jeff Carter is a winner. And Jeff Carter was not about to let the Kings leave San Jose without two points. On a two-on-one rush he fed Tanner Pearson - who managed to beat Logan Couture by a head - for a gorgeous game-winning goal.
Heading home with two points and towards a seven-game home-stand, the Kings are well-positioned to make some noise in the Pacific Division.