Throughout the regular season, Joe Pavelski has proven he is worthy of the captaincy with timely contributions. “Captain Clutch” is apparently no different in the postseason.
Pavelski scored twice — including the game-winner on a wraparound goal 17 seconds into the third period — to lead the Sharks past the Kings 4-3 in Game 1 of the first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the two rivals.
The quick strike early in the third — the fastest goal to start a third period in Sharks’ playoff history — set up a nail-biting final stanza, however, as the Sharks endeavored to hold on to a one-goal margin.
Midway through the period, Martin Jones stuck out the left pad to deny Andy Andreoff from point-blank off a rebound chance. The Sharks held the Kings at bay for the remainder of the game with an impressive forecheck, though Kyle Clifford fanned on a prime scoring chance with under two minutes left and the Sharks fended off a barrage of Kings’ shots with an empty net.
Head coach Peter DeBoer praised his team for their resilience and control:
“We’re a confident team … there was no panic. We fell behind 1-0 and 3-2 and both times came back with big responses. We’re comfortable on the road and we played a real good road game.”
But on the next shift, Ward took a penalty and the Kings converted on the ensuing power play, tying the game back up when Jeff Carter drove wide but banked it in off the stick of a diving Burns.
An apparent goal by Tomas Hertl minutes later was waved off due to a high stick. But the Sharks went on the power play shortly thereafter and had several Grade-A chances, including one sequence where Pavelski hit the post on a wide open net, and Patrick Marleau’s shot with Quick out of position was denied by a sliding Drew Doughty.
The action-filled period continued when the Sharks allowed a shorthanded goal with under three minutes to play. A fortuitous bounce let the Kings grab the puck in their own end and skate in on an odd-man rush; Trevor Lewis wristed one past Jones. But the Sharks got it back 30 seconds later as Hertl found the puck out of net mouth scramble and tied the game back up at 3-3 before second intermission.
Resiliency was the theme of the night, with DeBoer citing Hertl’s quick response as a prime example:
“That was a big response. [The shorthanded goal] was a tough goal to give up. To fall behind at that point in the game and for us respond immediately like that was a key moment in the game.”
The Sharks look a step slow out of the gate and the Kings took advantage of an early defensive zone turnover. A series of passes found Jake Muzzin in front, who patiently outwaited a sprawled-out Martin Jones and banked it in off Hertl into a gaping net to put the Kings ahead 1-0.
But the Sharks responded on the power play when Pavelski hammered a one-timer from Burns past Quick for a much-needed game-tying goal, quieting the raucous Staples Center crowd. It helped the Sharks limit the Kings’ chances and outshoot Los Angeles 8-5 despite not having a shot on goal through the first five minutes.
Pavelski also spoke to the team’s ability to not get too high or low:
“We feel confident. The biggest thing is that we stick to our guns. We keep throwing four lines out, and keep playing. We’ve really done a good job pressing, and not sitting back. Whether we have the lead or we’re down, we’ve played the same way.”
San Jose mustered a few more scoring chances in the period, notably a shot by Melker Karlsson from point-blank off a pass from Marleau that Quick stopped with a strong pad save.
Neither team had to be reminded of its opponent, with the Sharks and Kings combining for 37 hits during the first period in a physical start to the game. These two teams have squared off in the playoffs in three of the past five seasons, with the sour taste of blowing a 3-0 series lead in 2014 still fresh in the Sharks’ mind.
Burns, who continues to be infatuated with the postgame pizza spread in the locker room (he joked about pizza being the Sharks’ key to success on the road), described how he thought the rest of the series would go.
“It’s just a California series. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be grinding all game. It’s what we expect. You go with it, you feel good, eat a couple of slices of pizza, come back tomorrow.”
The Sharks, however, had the upper hand during this season, sporting a 3-1-1 record against the Kings, including wins in both games in Los Angeles.
Game 2 will be Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.