HP PAVILION — It took the San Jose Sharks a period to wake up before they took on the rival Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night.
But following the first 20 minutes, the fifth-place Sharks put on a show to beat the fourth-place Kings 3-2 in a shootout. Raffi Torres would get the lone shootout goal and Antti Niemi would stop 43 shot attempts flung at him by the opposition.
Not bad for a team playing back-to-back nights and spending time in between on a plane from Phoenix to San Jose.
Team Captain Joe Thornton said of the win:
Sharks Center Joe Thornton
“Really, every point right now is going to be huge. We know that they’re a really good team, and they always play us well. Yeah, to come off back-to-back nights and win is very big.”
Team Teal would get off to a slow start in the opening period, getting just one shot on goal for LA’s five shots in the first 10 minutes.
Both teams would get a boost of energy to open the second period, putting pressure on both goaltenders. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick would continue to keep the Sharks from getting anything past him, while Niemi would stay on his toes with all the time the puck spent in San Jose’s zone.
Then, as if shot out of a cannon, the Sharks offense would take control. At 8:47, Brent Burns — as a forward tonight — would get a wrist shot past Quick’s stick side for an unassisted goal, putting the home team on the board 1-0.
When asked about the contributions Burns makes to the team, head coach Todd McLellan related him to a familiar Bay Area sports celebrity:
Sharks Coach Todd McLellan
“What he’s done for our team is a lot like Kaepernick with the 49ers. He has the ability to roam around and be somewhat reckless at times.”
Not even a minute later, Burns would feed the puck to TJ Galiardi, who was posted up in the blue paint. No. 21 who would achieve a wrist shot that would leave Quick looking completely off-guard.
It would be Galiardi’s fourth goal of the season and would put San Jose ahead 2-0 at 9:30 in the second period. Joe Thornton would also pitch in as a helper, tallying his 500th career assist.
Galiardi talked about the chemistry on his current line:
Sharks Left Winger TJ Galiardi
“It’s all about chemistry going into playoffs. People can see that we’ve been searching for a while. And I think the way we have it set up now it’s looking pretty good. You’re going to get better and better every game that you play with guys more. That’s the case with our line, and we’re getting to know each other more.”
Penalties would pile up as the period continued on, with three Sharks landing in the penalty box within minutes of each other and putting them on the wrong end of a 5-on-3.
San Jose was about to kill off the second penalty when Jake Muzzin’s slap shot would hit the back of the Sharks net, bringing the score to 2-1.
Though the Kings got on the board in the second, it wasn’t due to any lack of effort by Niemi, who would dive and smother the puck at every angle to keep the Kings from making good on nearly 30 shots on goal in the period.
When asked about Niemi’s performance, Thornton put it simply:
“Last night he was great. Tonight he was great. Three games ago he was great. Every night he gives us a chance to win. I think he’s the best goalie in the world.”
After Tommy Wingels and Brad Richardson picked up roughing calls in the Sharks’ crease to put the teams at 4-on-4, LA’s Dustin Brown would get control of a rebound from underneath Niemi’s glove and chip it into San Jose’s net to tie the game 2-2.
Midway through the third, San Jose would put pressure on Quick with a flurry of shots at the end of a power play but be unable to capitalize. LA’s Jeff Carter would later get a magnificent break that would, somehow, not get past Niemi.
The “Beat LA!” chants would get louder and louder as the game entered overtime with shots in favor of the Kings, 41-35.
LA would have control of the puck for the majority of overtime play, though wide shots and superior blocking by Niemi would keep the score tied heading into the shootout.
Logan Couture and Dan Boyle would miss getting shots past Quick, but Raffi Torres would rise to the occasion. And nobody would be more surprised than Torres, who hadn’t performed in a shootout situation in quite some time:
Sharks Left Winger Raffi Torres
“It’s been a couple years since I got a chance to go on the shootout. I got a little nervous. But, you know, just trusted my hands, and trusted what I’ve been doing in practice. … I don’t know, I was kind of cold on the bench. … I have one move. It was either that or just try and shoot, and hope and pray.”
The San Jose Sharks continue their homestand Thursday when they host the Minnesota Wild. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.