SAP CENTER — Sure, most Sharks fans don’t want Team Teal slotted to face the LA Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, given the physically tasking nature of the matchup.
But nobody can deny, the tilt between the California rivals on Thursday night foreshadowed what could be a potentially riveting playoff series.
There was plenty of pushing and shoving between two teams that, without a doubt, do not like each other.
From Drew Doughty’s first period injury, to Joe Thornton’s shove fest with Slava Voynov, to three four-on-four power play attempts, among other penalties, in 60 minutes of hard-checking hockey.
After a lack luster performance in their win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the Sharks cranked their level of play up to 11 and racked up a franchise-topping 52 hits, as they skated into a well-earned 2-1 victory over the Southern California rival.
Head coach Todd McLellan, who wasn’t happy with the team’s effort after their win on Tuesday, expressed to the media Thursday how much happier he was with the performance:
“It was an overall better effort. Better defensively. Not as sloppy. The intensity and the attention to detail was much better than it was against Edmonton. The opponent. The environment. What’s on the line. It brought out the best in us.”
As for the physicallity, Logan Couture expressed:
“We expected a tough, hard game in our building… That’s probably the best we’ve played in a while. The most physical we have played in a while. They are a good team over there, but I thought tonight we were more physical. We played pretty well.”
Jordan Nolan tipped in a shot by Alec Martinez from the blue line to give LA the early 1-0 lead in the first period. San Jose instantly turned up the intensity, despite the Kings keeping the puck in the Sharks territory through the end of the opening frame.
But the second stanza belonged to the home team. With Dustin Brown in the penalty, Joe Pavelski won the faceoff and unintentionally created a screen as Brent Burns got the puck and launched it past LA goaltender Martin Jones.
Pavelski was credited with the goal as Burns and Dan Boyle tallied assists, and the Sharks tied things up 1-1.
Later in the period, Couture grabbed a loose puck from Tommy Wingels and successfully wrapped it around LA’s net and beat Jones to give San Jose a 2-1 lead. Patrick Marleau also notched an assist on the go-ahead goal.
The Kings were a big threat in the third period, but a huge save by Antti Niemi on a great look from Anze Kopitar with :25 seconds left in regulation was enough to preserve the one-goal lead, and victory.
The Sharks conclude their three game homestand on Saturday hosting the Nashville Predators. Puck drop for is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks set a new franchise record with 52 hits. Their previous record was set Dec. 4, 2006 at Dallas at 50 hits. … The penalty kill went five-for-five. It was the 7th time this season the Sharks have killed off 5-plus penalties in a game. … Brent Burns’ assist marked his 46th point of the season, tying his career-high. … Logan Couture scored his 21st goal of the season. … Tommy Wingels assisted on the Couture goal. It was his 22nd assist on the season. He also had a game-high 10 hits. … Patrick Marleau picked up an assist on the Couture goal. He now has 17 points since returning from the Olympic break.