SAN JOSE -- Is it possible to be upset and satisfied at the same time? Relieved and concerned? Frustrated and hopeful? That's where the Kings found themselves late Thursday night, in something of a playoff purgatory, not sure which way to go.
The cold fact is that the Kings lost to the San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in overtime, in Game 1 of the first-round series on Thursday night at HP Pavilion. After a wild, back-and-forth overtime, Joe Pavelski scored at the 14:44 mark to spark a raucous on-ice celebration.
The scoreboard is the ultimate judge, and certainly the Kings would rather be holding a 1-0 series lead, rather than facing their current 1-0 deficit, going into Game 2 on Saturday night.
Consider, though, what had to happen in order for the Kings to even get to the point at which Pavelski could break their hearts with the overtime goal, on a play in which Pavelski was the trailer, took a pass and scored on a skilled shot to the corner of the net.
The Kings had to come back after allowing the Sharks' Dany Heatley to score 28 seconds into the first period. They had to steady themselves after being outshot 14-3 in the first period. They had to deal with the disappointment of tying the game, on Dustin Brown's goal 7:25 into the second period, only to allow a goal less than three minutes later.
Justin Williams tied the game late in the second period, leading to a scoreless third and an overtime in which the teams combined for 23 shots in less than 15 minutes.
``You take away a lot of positives from tonight,'' Williams said. ``They came out they way we thought they would, as can be expected in Game 1 of the start of the playoffs. They came out rowdy. They came out with their fans behind them and got an early goal, which is exactly what we didn't want. We stuck with it, and throughout the latter part of the game, we started to pick it up and kind of take it to them a little bit.
``Really, in overtime it's anyone's game. We had some chances, they had some chances and they ended up winning. But as I said before the game, if you win this, you can't get too high, and we're not going to get too low right now. We played well. we came up short, but that just makes the second game a little bit more important.''
The Kings did this, of course, against a San Jose team that is considered a Stanley Cup contender, and all this without injured leading scorer Anze Kopitar and with Williams, who returned from a dislocated shoulder but whose durability was very much in doubt.
So while Kings winger Wayne Simmonds lay flat on his stomach, head down, after Pavelski's goal, and while goalie Jonathan Quick skated purposefully to the locker room while teammates tried to console him, the Kings' mood was not overly negative.
They did good things. They thoroughly outplayed the Sharks for long stretches of the game. They won the special-teams battle. They got great play from Quick in a massively pressurized third period. They were inches from winning the game in overtime.
``We did a lot of good things out there,'' Quick said. ``They're a great hockey team, and we were one shot away. We had our chances. (Antti) Niemi made a few big saves for them and, at the end of the day, they just got one more than we did. So we've got to refocus, get ready. It's in the past at this point. We've got to learn from it and win Game 2.''
Moral victories count for nothing of course, but after Game 1, the Kings weren't talking of moral victories. They were talking of carrying momentum into Game 2, given that they still retain a chance to earn a split on the road and take a tied series back to Los Angeles.
There's one potential bump in the road for the Kings, though. They will be holding their breath Friday morning, hoping that a call does not come from the league office.
After the game, the Sharks were upset at a hit that defenseman Ian White took from Kings center Jarret Stoll in the first period. White, with his back to the ice behind the net, took a hit from Stoll and went face-first into the glass. White crumbled to the ground and skated to the locker room awkwardly and did not return to the game.
Stoll was not penalized on the play, but ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday night that the NHL league office would review the hit for possible discipline.
``He was a little low there,'' Stoll said of White, while describing the play. ``I don't know what he was doing, if he was reaching for a puck or what. He was right against the boards, too, and he was a little low. I just finished my check on him, and it ended up pretty bad for him. I hope he's all right. You hate to see a guy get hurt, regular season or playoffs. I definitely wasn't trying to hurt him.''
Murray said he only had one, long-range view of the hit, but the Sharks certainly did, and not surprisingly, they didn't like what they saw.
``I don’t like it. I didn’t like it the first time around and I don’t like it on the replay,'' Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. ``I don’t know that Stoll is that kind of a guy but that’s exactly what we’re talking about and trying to eliminate (from the game). The guy’s head is this far from the boards and you drive your forearm and elbow in there? That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. I didn’t like it.’’
The Kings got gritty efforts from a handful of players, but that list was topped by Williams and Quick (42 saves), who rebounded from a couple shaky goals with a fantastic finish.
Nobody knew exactly what to expect from Williams, who missed the final nine regular-season games and played Thursday night wearing a harness to protect his still-recovering shoulder, but Williams turned in one of his best efforts of the season.
Williams recorded a team-high six shots on goal and was active throughout the game.
``I wasn't off (the ice) for very long,'' Williams said of his recovery. ``I was only off the ice for a couple weeks, so I knew that I would have my legs. I knew that I would have some jump in my legs, which would be important for avoiding checks. I was able to do some things and feel more comfortable as the game went on.''
Things certainly didn't start well for the Kings, as the Sharks needed only 28 seconds to take a 1-0 lead. On a counterattack, on the game's first shift, Quick made a stop on a shot by Ryane Clowe, but the rebound stayed in the crease. Heatley, unmarked, went to the net and knocked the puck in. Ian White also picked up an assist.
``It was probably the worst situation possible, for a start,'' Stoll said. ``The building was going crazy. We had a lot of guys that were playing their first-ever playoff games, and the fire drill was on, for sure. We just tried to stay calm on the bench and just getting pucks in, keep shooting pucks in on their D, being physical and just having a north attitude with the puck. It slowly, slowly turned, and we started getting our game.''
The Kings tied the game 7:25 into the second period with a power-play goal on only their fifth shot on goal of the game. After the Sharks had a 3-on-1 shorthanded chance, the Kings came back with their own 3-on-1 chance. Williams took the puck to the middle of the ice then passed left, and Brown beat Niemi on a one-timer from the middle of the faceoff circle.
The Sharks got the lead back just under three minutes after the Kings tied the game. Logan Couture carried the puck across the offensive blue line, avoided a check from Drew Doughty and took the puck to the net. Couture's short-side shot hit Quick's pad, then crossed the line to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead with 9:37 remaining in the second period. Clowe and Douglas Murray picked up assists.
Williams tied the game with 3:40 remaining in the second period. With the puck behind the net, two Sharks hit Ryan Smyth and left Williams unguarded. Williams beat Niemi on a quick wraparound to make it a 2-2 game.
That's where the score stayed until the 14:44 mark of overtime. On a rush, Pavelski came into the play as the trailer. Kyle Wellwood pulled up and fed a cross-ice pass to Pavelski, who beat Quick with a skilled shot to the top corner of the net.
``I thought I read the play well,'' Quick said. ``I knew that's where he was going to go. He was going to drive down to the wall and kind of hold up and wait for him to get an angle for a pass to Pavelski. I got there. He just beat me. He made a pretty good shot. Obviously I wish I had made the save, and we could still be playing.''
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