Sharks fend off late Kings charge

HP PAVILION — The “BEAT LA!!” chants started well before the rival Kings took the ice at the tank on Thursday night.

What better way is there to cheer on a San Jose Sharks victory? San Jose’s first meeting of the season against the defending Stanley Cup champs turned into a third period nail-biter but ended with the Sharks pulling out the 4-3 victory.

It would be the first time since January 27 that the Sharks would score four goals in a game. When asked about the impact of the goal count after the game, head coach Todd McLellan responded:

Sharks coach Todd McLellan

“We obviously needed all of them. It’s nice to get four. A bit of a relief, milestone for us, however you want to put it. Now we’ve got to go do it again here on the road for the next ten days.”

Brent Burns proved a second game in a row that he can help the team as a forward by putting the Sharks on the board first. Following a save by LA goaltender Jonathan Quick, Burns would rocket the puck back to the net, laying Quick out on his left side and giving San Jose the 1-0 lead at 11:09 in the first. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau would pick up assists.

When asked about Burns’ performance post-game, Couture broke into a smile:

Sharks center Logan Couture

“He’s an animal out there. He’s reckless, but it’s in a good way. He really doesn’t have to think, he just goes in there and plays his game. He’s a big body, strong, skates well shoots well. I enjoy playing with him.”

McLellan addressed Burns’ play post-game:

“We like what he’s doing right now. He’s brought some energy to the team, he’s a very effective forward. … And as long as it stays that way, we can keep experimenting with it.”

The Sharks’ success in the first was very much a product of the Sharks’ defense and Antti Niemi’s dominance between the pipes.

While the Kings outshot the Sharks 16-6 for the period, Niemi made several key stops and glove saves that would have eluded most goalies.

The Sharks would get an offensive surge in the second period following a clean hit that Andrew Desjardins would put on Colin Fraser, which would unravel into a fight behind the net between Desjardins and rookie Jake Muzzin.

Muzzin would rack up penalties for instigation and unsportsmanlike conduct, putting San Jose on their first power play of the night. The Desjardins hit was arguably the moment that ignited the Sharks.

Fraser later admitted the hit by Desjardins was a clean one.

Kings center Colin Fraser

“You’re allowed to hit, it’s the NHL I’ve got to kind of put the onus on myself to know he’s coming which obviously I didn’t so I’ll take a clean hit. I mean if it was the other way around, I would have been trying to hit him just as hard.”

With their first attempt on the one-man advantage, Matt Irwin would get his third goal of the season with a wrist shot past Quick to give Sharks the 2-0 lead.

The sold-out crowd hadn’t even had a chance to stop cheering when Joe Thornton would set up Logan Couture high in the zone, whose slap shot soared past Quick for a second power play goal at 8:34.

Team captain Joe Thornton talked about the impact of Desjardins’ hit:

Sharks center Joe Thornton

“He turned the game totally around with that hit. Getting the four minute power play, and we executed on the power play. We love when he plays like that. … It’s good hard hockey, and he delivered a clean check. It was the turning point of the game.”

With the Sharks putting the Kings into a serious hole, LA would pull Quick and put Jonathan Bernier in goal.

The Kings would not go quietly, taking advantage of a Sharks penalty at 9:27. LA’s Dustin Brown would take advantage of the rebound and shoot the puck past Niemi, still on his knees previous block, to put the Kings on the board 3-1.

San Jose would be unable to capitalize on a third power play, and the two-point lead would carry into the second intermission. LA would continue to outshoot the Sharks, 23-19.

San Jose shot out of the gate 27 seconds into the third period. Burns would gain control of the puck in LA territory and feed it to Couture, who launched the puck past Bernier for his second goal of the game, giving Team Teal the 4-1 lead.

Niemi would continue to keep the opposition at bay. But following a close call, Dustin Brown would get the rebound and shoot it to the back of the Sharks net, making the score 4-2 with 7:12 left in the third.

The Kings’ Dwight King would again take advantage of a rebound to bring the score to 4-3 with 3:20 left in regulation.

McLellan admitted post-game that the tightness of the score so late in the game made him a little nervous:

“There was some anxiousness. You could tell that we probably haven’t won on a consistent basis and that we’re re-establishing some type of confidence.”

The last minute of play would see Niemi block and save three potential game-tying goals, but San Jose would find a way to hold onto the one goal lead.

Notes

McLellan became the All-time leader in wins with 207 for the Sharks franchise, eclipsing Ron Wilson who held the record with 206 wins. … This was the first four goal game for the Sharks since January 27 vs. Vancouver. At the time, the Sharks had scored at least four goals in each of the first five games. Since then they have scored only three goals three times in the last 20 games. … Kings head coach Darryl Sutter was not available to reporters following the game. … Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar played in his 500th NHL game. … It’s the first time LA has lost consecutive games since February 7 and 10 at Nashville and Detroit.