The Sharks were overmatched by a desperate Kings team on Saturday at Staples Center, and saw their four-game winning streak halted by their most hated rival, 3-2. The three takeaways from the game….
1 – Kings ready from the start, Sharks not so much
It was predictable that the Kings would come out fired up for this one, trailing the Sharks by nine points and playing their first home game in nearly three weeks. This was a statement game for Los Angeles.
What wasn’t predictable was that the Sharks would come out so flat and unemotional. They had a chance to step on the throat of their biggest rival with wins on Saturday and again in the rematch on Tuesday, but didn’t show up until the third period.
After the game, Joe Pavelski told reporters: “We talked about that coming in to this building. They’re coming off a few losses. Getting home, they always come out with a good start anyway, so we knew they would be coming and we had to handle it.”
“They had a lot of jump early,” Martin Jones said. “They’ve lost a couple games here. We know where they are in the standings so we knew they were going to be hungry and come out hard. That was the difference in the game there. They were hungrier, and they won a few more battles.”
2 – Defensive struggles without Vlasic
The Sharks managed to win the first game without Marc-Edouard Vlasic on Dec. 13 in Toronto, 3-2 in a shootout, but they also struggled early in that one against the Maple Leafs, falling behind 2-0 after two and requiring a late comeback.
Two of Los Angeles’ goals were the result of mistakes the Sharks don’t often make.
Tanner Pearson was given all kinds of room to take a couple strides towards the net before unleashing s perfectly placed shot over Martin Jones’ shoulder to make it 1-0. “Those are the little moments that you have to find yourself on the right side of the puck and force those out,” Joe Pavelski told reporters.
In the third period Justin Braun was caught cheating ahead in the neutral zone, generating a two-on-one for Los Angeles that Jeff Carter finished off for the game-winner.
Braun was a minus-two without his regular partner so perhaps Pete DeBoer changes up his defense pairs for Tuesday’s rematch, assuming Vlasic is still not ready to go.
3 – Nasty rematch ahead?
Sharks-Kings rivalry games typically have at least a few moments of nastiness, and this one featured a first period fight between Micheal Haley and Kyle Clifford, and then later Joe Thornton getting into it with Dustin Brown and Derek Forbort. It could make for an emotional game at SAP Center on Tuesday.
The Kings will have a chance to get to within seven points of the Sharks for first place in the Pacific.
Pearson recognized the importance of Saturday’s win for Los Angeles, which has been without starting goalie Jonathan Quick since he was injured on opening night in San Jose. Los Angeles had lost the first two games in the season series.
“I think we needed a big two points – a division game, and four points were on the line,” Pearson said. “It’s a big game overall just not because it is the San Jose Sharks, it’s that we need to win right now. We’ve got to put this one past us, and move on to the next one.”
Goalie Peter Budaj said: “They have a very good team, and we always play them hard and they always play us hard, so it’s a big win after the two losses we had.”