It was of utter importance to the Kings to establish momentum early Sunday evening following their loss in Game 1 Thursday, in which they surrendered three first period goals.
Claiming early control of a game is one thing, maintaining it is a different fight. At San Jose’s SAP Center Sunday night, the Kings saw their early success quickly diminished, then stomped on in their 7-2 loss.
In the playoffs, and in a building as hostile as San Jose’s can be, no lead is safe, even if you find it early.
Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin got the offense rolling less than two minutes into the contest, snapping home a shot from the point after receiving a pass from Drew Doughty, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead just 1:51 into play.
For Muzzin, it was his second career NHL playoff goal, his second in as many games. Muzzin buried the Kings’ first marker Thursday night in Game 1 as well.
Midway through the first period, as Jeff Carter controlled the puck deep in San Jose’s zone, he curled up to the sideboards, and fed a streaking Trevor Lewis who tipped home Carter’s pass as he crashed the net.
Lewis’ marker gave the Kings a 2-0 lead with 10:27 still to play in the first period. Lewis, like Muzzin, also scored in Game 1, and the pair of goals by the unsung scorers seemed to put the Kings in a stable position, on top of Jonathan Quick’s 15 first period saves.
At the point of Lewis’ goal, if you include the Kings’ three third period goals scored Thursday night, they had beaten San Jose netminder Antti Niemi five times in their previous 23 shots.
After the Kings put forth a couple of solid shifts to start the second period, seemingly carrying over the momentum and control they withheld in the first period, San Jose slowly, but surely began to take over.
Mike Brown cut the Kings’ lead in half 4:25 into the second period, and Raffi Torres and Justin Braun followed up with goals of their own, taking a 3-2 lead over the Kings into the third period.
Facing a one-goal deficit, the Kings were still on solid ground facing the final 20 minutes of play.
That is, until San Jose tacked on two more goals in a 2:59 span in the first 4:07 of the second period, giving the Sharks a 5-2 lead with 15:53 left to play.
Just like the Sharks’ two late first period goals in Game 1 Thursday, their two early third period goals Sunday night all but ended the Kings’ chances to fight back.
They looked dejected, they looked stunned, and they just about looked lost.
Logan Couture and Joe Thornton added two more goals for the Sharks, upping the score to 7-2, the night’s eventual final score.
The Sharks have now scored a combined 13 goals on the Kings in the first two games of this series, 12 on Jonathan Quick. In the Kings’ Western Conference Quarterfinal series against San Jose last season, the Sharks scored a combined 10 goals on the Kings through the duration of a full seven game series.
Mike Richards, who played in his 100th career NHL postseason game Sunday night, continued to be a non-factor in what has been quite a troubling season for the Kings’ forward. Richards didn’t record a single shot on net all night, and took an undisciplined double-minor penalty in the final minutes.
Matt Greene, who returned to the Kings lineup after Darryl Sutter decided to dress seven defensemen, was a -4 on the night, and was on the ice for each of San Jose’s three second period goals.
The series now shifts back to Los Angeles, where the Kings will host the Sharks for Game 3 Tuesday evening at STAPLES Center.
San Jose is 1-9-1 at STAPLES Center in their last 11 appearances, dating back to November 28, 2011.