SAN JOSE – The latest iteration of the Sharks-Kings rivalry at SAP Center on Sunday night was such an entertaining and intensely fought game, not even the vanquished San Jose players could complain too loudly about the disappointing fashion in which they lost.
Vincent Lecavalier’s tying goal with 12.2 seconds left in the third period forced overtime, where Marian Gaborik won it with a wrist shot from the circle that sailed over Martin Jones’ glove side in the final minute to give the Kings a 3-2 win in a match that had a little bit of everything.
“It sucks. We thought we had them. But, that’s hockey,” Joe Thornton said. “It was a great hockey game for the fans to watch, for us to be a part of it. That’s probably one of the best games you’re going to see so far in the regular season. It was exciting.”
Logan Couture said: “There’s a long history between the two teams. You can feel it in the building. They had a lot of fans here. That’s a fun hockey game to play.”
Still, it was a missed opportunity for the Sharks, who now trail the Kings by nine points for the Pacific Division lead after they were seconds away from drawing to within just six with a game in hand.
In the third period while clinging to a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Joe Pavelski score, fourth-liner Mike Brown was called for roughing Drew Doughty at 6:30. The Kings defenseman called for the puck, partner Jake Muzzin obliged, and Doughty buzzed in an overpowering slap shot that Jones had no way of stopping with Tyler Toffoli stationed in front of his good buddy.
“We can’t take that penalty in the third period,” Pete DeBoer said.
On the late equalizer Lecavalier parked in front of the net, was puzzlingly left untouched by Brent Burns, and managed to squeeze a Dustin Brown pass from the corner over the line with goalie Jhonas Enroth pulled for an extra attacker.
Still, DeBoer wasn’t overly displeased with that sequence of events, apparently agreeing with Thornton’s “that’s hockey” appraisal.
“You can always do things differently, but you’re in that situation over the course of a season probably 20 times. Every once in awhile one is going to go in on you,” DeBoer said. “It just happened to be tonight.”
The highlight for San Jose was Couture’s third period score five minutes after Doughty’s goal, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Joonas Donskoi created the play, finding Couture in the circle after he outmuscled Muzzin behind the Los Angeles net.
The 26-year-old former all-star and 23-year-old rookie seem to be developing a real chemistry. Couture has one point in four of his last five games, while Donskoi is now on a five-game point streak.
“[Donskoi] made a great pass,” Couture said. “I tried to pop off and give him an opening, and he found my sweet spot there.”
Donskoi said: “[Couture] makes his linemates better, and it’s easy to play with him. He sees the ice very well, and when he gets a chance he usually scores.”
The Sharks did manage to successfully run their point-streak to an impressive nine games (7-0-2), and now enjoy a three-point lead for second place in the Pacific Division ahead of Arizona and Vancouver.
It will be difficult to catch the Kings, considering the All-Star break is around the corner and there is just one head-to-head meeting remaining on March 28. But the Sharks did just shave seven points off of the Kings’ lead over the span of 15 days, when the streak began on Jan. 9.
If San Jose's game remains where it’s been over that span, including on Sunday, it has a shot.
“Obviously, we want to hunt them down. They didn’t lock up the division tonight that I know of, did they?” DeBoer said. “We like how we’re playing. We’re going to chase them right to the buzzer.”
Thornton said: “We feel we can play against anybody, and that’s a good feeling to have. The way [Jones] has been playing, we have a great feeling in this locker room. We feel like we’ve got our home game under control now. It took us awhile, but we feel really confident at home. Our road record speaks for itself. We’re playing some good hockey.”