San Jose fans chanted ``Beat L.A.''...when they weren't silent in anxiety and anticipation. Both teams battled for 60 minutes...and then beyond.
A Kings team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2002 got a taste of what postseaon hockey is like. In all, it was a fairly palatable night for the Kings.
Matched up against one of the NHL's premier teams, on the road, the Kings essentially played the San Jose Sharks to a draw and earned one point with a 2-1 shootout loss Wednesday night before 17,562 at HP Pavilion.
The Kings' Alexander Frolov and San Jose's Patrick Marleau traded second-period goals, and both goalies -- Jonathan Quick and Evgeni Nabokov -- were strong.
``This is probably the best team in the league,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said of the Sharks, ``so when you do come in and play well, you're going away with a lot of encouragement. You're talking about the positive stuff that you did, when addressing the team. But there was an opportunity there to win it tonight.''
By all measures, it was a game in which the teams deserved an equal number of points. Both teams recorded 30 shots, both teams went 0 for 2 on the power play and each team controlled one period, with the third period essentially a draw.
Even the shootout brought parity. The Kings scored in the first round, the Sharks in the third, and it didn't end until Ryan Clowe scored in the sixth round and Jarret Stoll got stopped by Nabokov.
With the result, the Sharks pulled even with the Kings atop the Pacific Division standings, with each team holding an 8-4-1 record. The Kings also recorded an Oct. 6 victory over the Sharks at Staples Center, and are feeling pretty good about how they measure up against a perennial league power.
``No question,'' Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. ``Even the record says it too. I think we have the same record right now. ... I thought that in the first period we were better than them. The second period, obviously they came back a little more. Everything was going fine. We scored a goal, we took the lead, and they scored a goal but it was back and forth.
``We had enough chances, so we can say at the end of the day that we did play an equal game against them. We can compare ourselves to them.''
Frolov continued his hot streak with a goal eight minutes into the second period, on a nice sweeping backhand from behind the net. Frolov used his reach to get around defenseman Dan Boyle and push the puck around Nabokov.
Since being made a healthy scratch for one game last week due to subpar play and attitude – in the eyes of coach Terry Murray – Frolov has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last four games.
The lead didn't last long though, as Marleau scored with less than six minutes left in the period. He carried the puck into the Kings' zone and, with a skating burst, got past defenseman Matt Greene.
Marleau then ripped a slap shot that cleanly beat Quick, under his left arm, to tie the game.
After that, it was up to the goalies, and both were up to the task.
Nabokov had to do his heavy lifting early, as the Kings outshot the Sharks 13-5 in the first period, but then the Sharks outshot the Kings 14-6 in the second period and 9-7 in the third period.
Quick succeeded in keeping San Jose's powerful duo of Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton off the board.
``Those first couple lines there, those are some of the best players in the league,'' Quick said. ``It takes a team effort. All six guys have to playing well in order to shut them down like that. I thought the boys played well. I thought they did a good job.''
All told, Murray was pleased with the effort he got from Quick.
``I thought Quick did a really good job here tonight,'' Murray said. ``Again, the second period especially, because there's so much action around the net, a lot of big bodies and defensemen being active from the blue line. There's a lot of things that he has to read right away. So it was a real good game by him.''
Nabokov got the better of Quick in the shootout though, as after Handzus scored in the opening round, the Kings went 0 for 5. They hurt themselves, as well, by fumbling away a couple pucks before they even really got a shot on goal.
``To be honest, he didn't have a whole lot of work in the shootout,'' said Kopitar, who failed on his shootout attempt. ``Four out of six were kind of bobbled pucks or something. That's a little unlucky, but he's a great goaltender and you have to make a great shot to beat him.''
Kings forward Justin Williams missed a fourth consecutive game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He is considered questionable for Thursday night's home game against Vancouver.
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