There weren’t any surprises waiting for the Sharks when they hit the road to play the Los Angeles Kings. They knew they were in for a wild Friday night tilt with their long-time rivals.
“It’s going to be their home opener, they’re going to be fired up,” Joe Thornton said Thursday before the team jetted down to Southern California. “It’s a great rivalry, and they’re always tight games. So I expect it to be the same tomorrow.”
And boy, was he right.
After the Kings tied the game up at two early in the second period both teams played a physical back-and-forth bout that went into overtime. With the minutes winding down in three-on-three play, Logan Couture made a swift pass to Kevin Labanc who found the back of the net to give San Jose the 3-2 victory in overtime and spoil Los Angeles' home opener.
Here are three takeaways from Friday night’s wild game.
San Jose finally shed the rust
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer sounded confident after the team’s 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday that the team would shake off the last of their preseason rust and play better in their next game. Sure enough, his team was much more dangerous than on Wednesday, gaining speed as the game went on and refusing to give the Kings too much room.
San Jose also showed discipline throughout the chippy game. Five different Sharks went to the penalty box during Friday’s game, and there was some drama in the second period after Timo Meier slashed Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the knee and sent the Norris Trophy winner to the dressing room for a spell. But netminder Martin Jones and the San Jose defense responded well by keeping Los Angeles' surge of momentum from resulting in the go-ahead goal.
Special teams are coming along
Special teams have been a hot topic for the Sharks since before the regular season even started, especially after San Jose gave up a few shorthanded goals in their last preseason tilt against the Vegas Golden Knights. Then, when the Ducks scored twice on the power play on Wednesday, the Sharks’ special teams were looking very concerning.
But the penalty kill ended up coming to the rescue five times on Friday evening, wearing down the Kings’ power play attempts. It also didn’t hurt that Jones saved his best saves for the kill, and became more dominant as the game went on.
The jury’s still out on the Sharks power play, which only had one opportunity in Friday’s game and didn’t convert.
The third line is lethal
For the second game in a row, the third-line combination of Evander Kane, Antti Suomela, and Joonas Donskoi set the tone for the rest of the Sharks’ forwards. Kane has shown in his short tenure in San Jose he can be slotted anywhere on the offense and make a positive impact, but the chemistry he has found with the two Finns is strong. Their success just through two regular-season games gives San Jose’s offense immense depth.
This red-hot trio can create problems for opposing teams trying to match up against San Jose’s forwards – especially when the Sharks are playing on their home ice.