Stadium Series Recap: Gaborik's Blast the Difference in 2-1 Win
It wasn't a classic road game, but it was a classic road win.
After the spectacle of last year's outdoor game led to a dud of a performance, the Los Angeles Kings wanted to stay the course and treat this like an ordinary road game. It worked out. the San Jose Sharks had the upper hand in the second period, but a strong beginning and a strong ending led to a 2-1 victory.
In the end, it wasn't really a sloppy game, especially by Stadium Series standards and especially with the ice seeming to deteriorate a bit late in each period. Each goaltender gave up one goal which they might have regretted and stepped up otherwise. The overall Corsi For (you can't make me call them SATs, National Hockey League) finished at 62 apiece. What were the differences, then?
For one, the start was key. Especially for Los Angeles, who came up empty on 36 shots at Dodger Stadium, an early goal was primed to make a huge difference. Kyle Clifford obliged. Jake Muzzin's shot from the point was tipped past Antti Niemi on LA's fifth attempted shot of the game, and the noise was... there, I guess? The press box glass was really thick. Anyway, 1-0 Kings.
San Jose took a while to get themselves back in the game, as LA continued exhibiting a strong forecheck and cycle game. Clifford getting the goal was a nice reward for the fourth line, which on multiple occasions pinned the Sharks in the defensive zone. Jordan Nolan mentioned yesterday how the fourth line has picked up their game since Nick Shore's arrival, and it was on display tonight. (Sadly, the customary outdoor game fight never materialized; Nolan and John Scott only really started shoving each other in the third period, and the refs were there to stop it.)
The Sharks got a goal from Brent Burns late in the first, though, as a shot from the far side deflected off Jonathan Quick and in. On this evening, though, the soft goal was NOT emblematic of Quick's performance, as he stopped 31 of 32 overall. His most important contributions came in the second period, as some combination of that late goal and the music of John Fogerty propelled San Jose to a much better twenty minutes. Quick resisted quite a bit of the pressure on his own but got some help from the defensemen, who put forth a disciplined effort with only a few exceptions. (Those being a couple Muzzin turnovers and a puck-over-glass.) Eighteen blocked shots on the evening aided the cause.
So in the end, the third period got to provide the deciding goal, and the Kings earned it with another strong start. Dwight King had his chance to be the hero just 39 seconds in after getting a breakaway feed and deking Niemi, but he slid the puck just wide. Less than four minutes later, the Kings got another open chance and buried it. Jeff Carter knocked the puck high in the air off Marc-Edouard Vlasic's stick entering the zone, and Marian Gaborik got in the way of Burns' subsequent attempt to get the puck deep. Gaborik didn't have enough speed for a real breakaway chance, so he instead fired a slapper before Vlasic could catch up to him.
It beat Niemi cleanly, and the Kings had their goal. LA absolutely locked down in the first ten minutes of the period, allowing just one shot attempt, and after some scattered Sharks opportunities went begging, the usual late 6-on-5 barrage came up empty as well.
Todd McClellan wasn't too disappointed after the game, and for good reason; it wasn't a lack of effort by San Jose that lost them the game tonight. It was simply a strong effort by LA in the third-most-attended game in NHL history, and one that actually lived up to most of the hype.