The ice was tilted early in the Kings’ favor, and the Sharks never fully recovered in a 3-2 loss at Staples Center in a New Year’s Eve showdown between division rivals.
The Sharks’ four-game winning streak was snapped, while Los Angeles won for just the second time in its last seven (2-3-2).
The Kings drew to within seven points of first place San Jose in the Pacific Division, with a rematch set for Tuesday at SAP Center.
Playing in the second of a back-to-back, the Sharks looked generally sleepy for the first two periods. The Kings, meanwhile, were playing at home for the first time in three weeks, and attacked early. They took the lead on Tanner Pearson’s goal at 4:17, finally finishing off one of their numerous early chances when Pearson was left all alone to take a few steps towards the net before unleashing a wrist shot.
Los Angeles led in shots after the first, 13-6, along with a whopping 31-13 edge in shot attempts.
The start of the second period wasn’t any better for San Jose, when Brent Burns put his team shorthanded just 32 seconds in when he tripped Anze Kopitar. Less than a minute later, Drew Doughty hammered home in a slap shot with Dustin Brown screening Martin Jones at 1:31.
The Sharks finally showed a little bit of life to start the third, when, on a power play that carried over from the second, Burns hissed a wrist shot from high of the zone that found its way through just 12 seconds into the final frame.
Rather than build off of that achievement, though, Jeff Carter’s superb wrist shot on a two-on-one after Justin Braun was caught in neutral zone no man’s land pushed the Kings’ lead back to 3-1.
Kevin Labanc capped the scoring with his seventh goal at 13:57, bringing the Sharks back to within 3-2. They nearly tied it on a two-on-one in the waning minutes, but Patrick Marleau ripped a shot that was off-target.
Predictably, there was some rough stuff later in the game, with Joe Thornton in the middle of it. The former captain shouldered Kings former captain Dustin Brown by the Kings’ bench, knocking Brown over, and was then caught violently slashing Derek Forbort in the arm after the whistle, earning a minor penalty.
San Jose was without stalwart defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was hit in the face with a slap shot late in Friday’s win against Philadelphia. He is reportedly day-to-day.
After Tuesday, the Sharks and Kings close out the season series on Jan. 18 at Staples Center. San Jose won the first two meetings.
The Sharks have played 10 games on New Year’s Eve, all on the road, falling to 7-2-1.
The Sharks went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Kings were 1-for-4. San Jose scored just its fourth road power play goal in the last 11 games (4-for-39).
Doughty’s goal ended a streak of six straight Sharks games where they didn’t allow a power play goal-against (15-for-15).
Jones, who had Friday off, lost for just the second time in regulation to the Kings (5-2-1). He made 24 saves.
Peter Budaj improved to 16-10-3 with 16 saves.
With Vlasic out for the second time this season, Justin Braun was paired with David Schlemko, while Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo constituted the third pair.
Los Angeles remains without starting goalie Jonathan Quick, while Tyler Toffoli missed his fifth straight game with a lower body injury.
After Tuesday’s rematch with Los Angeles, the Sharks remain home to host the Wild on Thursday and Red Wings on Saturday. Of their 14 games in January, nine are at home.