Jarret Stoll was unable to play tonight and is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury after taking a high hit from Raffi Torres late in the second period of the Kings’ 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Tuesday, so taking his spot as the centre on the third line with Dustin Penner and Trevor Lewis was Brad Richardson. Anyone who reads my stuff should know I’m a big Richardson fan, so I’m not too worried about this (other than the faceoff success the Kings were losing, which was apparent tonight). Darryl Sutter also made some changes to his defense pairings during Game 1, and he kept those intact today, with Jake Muzzin moving from Slava Voynov’s left on the second pairing to the left side of the third pairing, Rob Scuderi moving up to Muzzin’s old spot, and Alec Martinez moving to the right side of the third pairing. Torres, meanwhile, was suspended for the remainder of this second-round series for the hit. I don’t want to spend too much more time on the hit, but although I initially didn’t think it was that bad, it looked worse after I saw it again. That said, Torres only got such a harsh penalty because of his history of dirty play. Anyways, as for the game tonight, it was a big one, as the Kings looked hold on to home-ice advantage and take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series before heading up to San Jose for the next two games. Neither team played their best in Game 1, so we’d see what they’d do tonight.
The Sharks came out flying to start the game (can you imagine flying sharks?), but despite that, just three minutes into the first period, Jeff Carter picked up the puck near the boards just above the left circle in the Kings zone, skated it straight down the ice to the top of the right circle near the boards in the Sharks zone, and took a shot that beat Antti Niemi under his blocker and over his right pad. That was an amazing shot by Carter. Not even eight minutes later, though, Jordan Nolan headed to the penalty box for slashing, but the Kings improved to 4-for-4 on the penalty kill so far in this series. Just over a minute later, Tim Kennedy took a penalty for high-sticking, giving the Kings a chance to extend their lead. They didn’t, but it was a great power play. Just over a minute later, Martinez took a holding penalty, giving the Sharks a chance to tie the game before the first intermission, but they were unable to. However, at even strength, the Sharks definitely got the better of the play in the period. San Jose held an 11-4 edge in shots in the opening frame.
Not even three minutes into the second period, Scott Hannan went off for interference. Late in the power play, by the boards by the left circle in the Sharks zone, Richardson made a terrific backhand saucer pass to Drew Doughty above the right circle, and he took a slap shot through traffic that beat a screened Niemi by his blocker. Terrific shot by Doughty, but oh man, what a pass by Richardson. Can Sutter please stop scratching him? Seriously, it’s ridiculous. Just over two minutes later, Tommy Wingels went off for high-sticking, but a minute and a half into the Kings power play, Martinez went off for hooking, setting up half of a minute of 4-on-4 play before a minute and a half of a Sharks power play. The Kings killed it off, but right after, Logan Couture made a backhand pass from the slot to Joe Thornton at the low right circle in the Kings zone, and he passed it to Patrick Marleau at the goalmouth, and he tapped the puck into an empty net, as Quick had gone out to challenge Thornton and couldn’t stop the pass. Not even five minutes later, from the left side of the Sharks neutral zone, Hannan chipped the puck up the boards to Scott Gomez who entered the left side of the Kings zone and passed the puck across to former King Brad Stuart above the right circle, and he took a slap shot that beat Quick by his blocker. The puck hit Richardson’s stick right in front of Stuart, then hit Jake Muzzin’s stick right in front of Quick and elevated even more. Just over a minute later, Carter went off for charging, giving the Sharks a chance to take the lead. The Kings were able to kill it off, though. It was another period that wasn’t so great for the Kings, as they were outshot by a total of 13-9 in the middle frame.
Not even nine minutes into the third period, from the boards by the right circle in the Kings zone, Gomez worked the puck to Stuart at the right point who took a slap shot that went wide to the right off the net, but bounced back to the right of the crease where Marc-Edouard Vlasic put it in before Quick could get back in position, as he had gone out to challenge Stuart’s shot. With just over nine minutes to go in the period, James Sheppard went off for roughing, but the Kings were unable to tie the game. With just under three minutes to go, the Kings got one last chance, as Stuart went off for tripping. Shortly after, Vlassic cleared the puck over the glass and got a penalty for delay of game, giving the Kings a lengthy 5-on-3. With just over a minute to go in the 5-on-3, Mike Richards took a shot from the left circle that Niemi stopped with his right pad, Carter backhanded the rebound right off of Niemi’s right pad from the goalmouth, but the puck bounced out to the centre of the crease where Dustin Brown buried it. Almost immediately after, Muzzin passed the puck from the left side of the Kings neutral zone to Tyler Toffoli at the right side of the Sharks neutral zone, Toffoli skated to the right circle in the Sharks zone and took a shot that Niemi turned aside with his right pad, but he kicked the rebound right out to Trevor Lewis at the low left slot below the circle, and he immediately beat Niemi before he could get over. Todd McLellan pulled Niemi for an extra attacker with around a minute to go, but the Sharks weren’t able to tie it. Thanks to a late game surge, aided by some power plays, the Kings stole Game 2 from the Sharks. They held an 18-7 edge in shots in the final frame.
Game 1 may have perhaps lacked a bit in entertainment, but Game 2 sure didn’t. A wild, back-and-forth game saw the Kings jump out to a 2-0 lead, cough it up, even fall behind in the third period, but a lengthy 5-on-3 power play late in the game led to a pair of goals, as the Kings snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. That said, let’s be honest — do the Kings win this game, or even tie it, if the Sharks didn’t gift them with those two late penalties? They may very well not have, and although they turned their play up after falling behind, the Kings didn’t play very well for most of this game, and they really didn’t play that well on Tuesday, either. But, the Kings did what they had to do and held on to home-ice advantage, and will now head into San Jose for Games 3 and 4 with a commanding 2-0 series lead. However, we learned in the last series that winning the first two games at home does not mean a series is over, as the Kings lost the first two games in St. Louis and then won the next four games. Technically, the Kings don’t have to win in San Jose, but they don’t want to head back to Los Angeles for Game 5 with two straight losses, a tied series, and momentum on the side of the Sharks. The Kings are going to need to be better, though, and the challenge will be for them to be better on the road. Stay tuned for my post-game reaction after Game 3 on Saturday, but for now, it’s time for my picks for tonight’s three stars.
Third Star: Jonathan Quick.
Quick may have given up three goals tonight, but it was hard to give him much blame. The first goal was tapped in from the goalmouth and someone should have been on Marleau, the second goal was a great shot through traffic from relatively close range that deflected twice, and the third goal, well, maybe you can say he once again overplayed a shot and should have gotten back in position faster, but still, I’m not going to be too hard on him. He made 28 saves, played very well and was a big reason the Kings won tonight despite once again being outplayed for most of the game.
Second Star: Scott Gomez.
Gomez was all over the ice tonight, made a great play to set Stuart’s goal up and also helped set Vlasic’s goal up. Gomez just looked like he was feeling it tonight. He was flying all over the ice. Right until his team blew it at the end, it looked like he was going to be a big reason why the Sharks won tonight and tied up this series.
First Star: Drew Doughty.
A fantastic game from Doughty, who logged 28:28 of action in this one, and over 11 of those minutes were on special teams, as he continues to be a big part of everything the Kings do. Doughty also got rewarded for his strong play with a big goal on the power play in the second period to give the Kings a 2-0 lead, as he took a great shot that got through traffic.
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