Kings lose to Sharks 6-3
Thursday, 04.21.2011 / 7:03 PM
NHL defensemen, at age 21, aren't supposed to do what Drew Doughty
does on a regular basis. Sometimes, a reminder of that is in order. Unfortunately for the Kings, one arrived Thursday night, at perhaps the least opportune moment of their season.
Doughty's second-period roughing penalty, in itself, didn't cost the Kings the game. In fact, it didn't even lead to a San Jose power play, given that the Sharks' Scott Nichol also went to the penalty box for a matching roughing penalty after a tussle near the benches.
The ensuing two minutes of 4-on-4 play, though, was a double whammy for the Kings, as the Sharks broke a scoreless tie with two goals. That burst sent the Sharks on their way to a 6-3 victory in Game 4 of the first-round series before 18,234 at STAPLES Center.
The Kings now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, and face elimination when they face the Sharks in Game 5 in San Jose on Saturday night. After a 15-minute, closed-door meeting, the Kings seemed frustrated, and with good reason.
``It's a long year,'' Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell
said. ``You play hard. You train hard. You travel together, room together and do all those things. You want success, because you look across the room and you see that the other guy wants success as well. That's who you play for, is your teammates. Absolutely. It's your teammates, who are striving to reach the same goal. The last two games are not games that we like. We've got to go up there and win one in San Jose and put the pressure back on them.''
All season long, the Kings prided themselves on good defense. They knew, going into this series, that in order to have a chance to upset the heavily favored Sharks, they would likely need to play gritty, smart, tight-checking, low-scoring games.
After a split of the first two games of the series in San Jose, the Kings were well-positioned to play their game at home and take control of the series. So what did they do? They allowed 12 goals in two games and moved to the brink of elimination.
``We were one of the best defensive teams in the league this year,'' Kings winger Justin Williams
said. ``This is totally unacceptable, and we're letting ourselves down. This is crunch time. A lot of work went into this, to get to the playoffs. We don't want to let it slide away. Just like last game, we've got to pick up our pace. We're going to San Jose to win, and get this thing back here.''
The Kings have had their moments in this series, and had their moments in Game 4.
They played a solid first period, one that included some brilliant saves from goalie Jonathan Quick
. They didn't fold after falling into a 3-0 second-period deficit, and used some inspired play to close to within 3-2 heading into the third period.
But what happened in between, and after, is what sent the Kings to defeat.
In terms of game control, the Kings were at least even in the early part of the second period. That's when Nichol, the Sharks' fourth-line center, hit Doughty, the Kings' top defenseman, and the two players tangled near the Kings' bench.
Gloves came off but no punches were exchanged, and both players went to the penalty box. That was two losses for the Kings. In the matching penalties, the Kings traded their best defenseman for a Sharks forward who had seven points in 56 games this season.
Beyond that, the penalties put the game in a 4-on-4 situation, one in which the Sharks have the clear advantage based on their skilled forwards. Sure enough, the Sharks took a 1-0 lead 44 seconds into the 4-on-4, on Ryane Clowe's first goal, and took a 2-0 lead 1:58 into the 4-on-4, when Jason Demers jumped into the play and scored.
Just like that, the Kings' momentum vanished. They would play from behind for the rest of the game and never completely recover. Less than four minutes after Demers' goal, Clowe's second goal gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead at the 9:28 mark of the second period.
``You can't lose Doughty to Nichol,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``But Nichol, give him credit. He's the reason why they won tonight. Because they scored two goals on it, and then they end up scoring a goal on the double-minor, (Matt) Greene in the box. So it's three goals directly responsible from Nichol's play.
``You just don't want to lose your top defenseman to a player of that stature. If you're going to lose him to a (Joe) Thornton or a (Patrick) Marleau, then you'll take that exchange. That was a very costly move.''
Still, the Kings battled back, when Brad Richardson
scored with nine minutes remaining in the second period and Williams scored with 3:56 remaining. The Kings were buzzing around Sharks goalie Antti Niemi late in the period and didn't tie the game but appeared to take significant momentum into the third period. Appearances were deceiving.
The Sharks started the third period with jump, and defensive breakdowns by the Kings contributed to two San Jose goals within the first four minutes. That gave the Sharks a 6-2 lead and, for all practical purposes, moved the attention ahead to Game 5.
``They’ve scored 12 goals in two games,'' Kings defenseman Jack Johnson
said. ``That’s embarrassing. We have to pack up, get to San Jose and go there to win a hockey game. Our backs are against a wall. They’re a tough team to play, and right now they’re playing with a lot of confidence. But we should be a tough team to play against, because there’s no tomorrow for us. If we lose, it’s the season, so we have to go there to win a hockey game and expect nothing else.''
The game, not surprisingly, ended with some hostility. Three 10-minute misconduct penalties were handed out, and Murray was left steamed by a tripping penalty on San Jose's Dany Heatley, who took out Kings defenseman Alec Martinez
on the play.
``I think the Sharks lost their composure at the end,'' Murray said. ``With Heatley's penalty, the slew-foot on Martinez, that's a dangerous play. He's going back for pucks. That's a very dangerous play. That's where you break your leg. That's where you blow your knee out. I hate that play. That's a gutless move, in my mind. A gutless move. You just don't do that in hockey. You never did 30 years ago, and you can't get away with it. That should have been more than a two-minute minor. That's a major. That's a game misconduct.''
There was plenty of scoring late, but the goalies stole the show in a scoreless first period, when the Sharks outshot the Kings 13-9. Quick made a handful of brilliant saves, including two during a San Jose 5-on-3 advantage, to keep the game 0-0. The Kings also had a brief (13-second) 5-on-3 advantage but did not score.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead 3:58 into the second period, in a 4-on-4 situation. On a counter-attack, Clowe threw the puck to the front of the net from the corner. First, it deflected off the skate of Johnson in front and then Martinez, attempting to clear it, instead pushed it into the Kings' net.
Doughty's unwise decision to get mixed up with Nichol resulted in a 4-on-4 situation and two Sharks goals. The second came just 1:14 after the first, as Quick made the save on a shot by Logan Couture. The rebound bounced left, and Demers jumped into the play and scored from close range to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead 5:12 into the second period.
With Greene in the penalty box for a double-minor high-sticking call, the Sharks took a 3-0 lead 9:28 into the second period. Ian White found Couture with space in the slot. Quick saved Couture's shot, but the rebound stayed near the crease as Clowe beat Johnson to the front of the net and scored from close range.
The Kings got on the scoreboard, and cut the Sharks' lead to 3-1, with exactly nine minutes remaining in the second period. Ryan Smyth
shot from the outer edge of the left faceoff circle and Niemi made the save, but couldn't control the rebound. Brad Richardson
swooped behind the net and knocked in the puck.
The Kings made it a 3-2 game with 3:56 remaining in the second period. Williams carried the puck into the San Jose zone, up the left side, and sent a cross-ice pass toward Smyth, who was tied up with Marc-Eduoard Vlasic as he crashed the net. The puck deflected off Vlasic's stick and into the net, and Williams got credit for the goal. Mitchell picked up an assist.
A strong start to the third period by the Sharks resulted in two early goals.
The Sharks got the puck deep in the Kings' zone, and Patrick Marleau controlled it in the corner. With three Kings keeping an eye on Marleau, Thornton went to the front of the net all alone, took a pass from Marleau and scored from close range to give the Sharks a 4-2 lead 2:28 into the third period.
Just 54 seconds later, the Sharks had a three-goal lead. Immediately after an offensive-zone faceoff win, the Sharks' Dan Boyle fired a shot from the point. Joe Pavelski got a tip and the puck got through traffic and beat Quick to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead 3:22 into the third period.
San Jose's third goal of the third period came with 8:18 remaining. Kyle Wellwood's shot from the high slot was saved, but Quick couldn't control the rebound and Torrey Mitchell went to the front of the net and scored from close range to give the Sharks a 6-2 lead.
``We seem to be chasing the puck a little bit more,'' Williams said. ``Knowing how good of a team they are offensively, if we're chasing the puck around, we're going to be chasing them around. That's certainly what happened, definitely in the third period. They got that early goal and a couple tap-in goals that were simply unacceptable for us.''
The Kings made it a 6-3 game with 6:49 remaining, when Johnson's slap shot from the left point was deflected by Alexei Poinikarovsky and past Niemi. Trevor Lewis
also picked up an assist.