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Tonight in the West: Sharks dismantle Kings to clinch Pacific crown

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau

San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton (19) celebrates his goal with teammate Patrick Marleau (12) and others during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, April 4, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


Western Conference

p-1. Vancouver - 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose - 103 pts (3 GR)
y-3. Detroit - 102 pts (3 GR)
4. Phoenix - 96 pts (3 GR)
5. Los Angeles - 96 pts (3 GR)
6. Nashville - 95 pts (3 GR)
7. Anaheim - 93 pts (3 GR)
8. Chicago - 92 pts (4 GR)
9. Calgary - 91 pts (2 GR)
10. Dallas - 89 pts (4 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z - clinched conference title
y - clinched division title
x - clinched playoff spot

San Jose 6, Los Angeles 1

If tonight’s one-sided game ends up being a first round preview, this battle of California would closely resemble the rivalry between a hammer and a nail.

Simply put, the Sharks were all over the Kings in this game and clinched their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title in the process. Los Angeles came into this game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but the outcome wasn’t in doubt for very long, as San Jose raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period and then answered the Kings’ 2-1 tally with four more in the second. Not much really happened in the third period, except for some extracurricular activity that included two simultaneous fights (one of those surprisingly included Dan Boyle).

Several Sharks earned two-point games, with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ranking among the players who earned a point and assist each. Joe Thornton also accomplished that task, pushing his career regular season points total to 999.

It wasn’t a great night for Kings goalies, as Jonathan Quick was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots while Jonathan Bernier allowed two more on 19. Meanwhile, Antti Niemi made 30 out of 31 saves to earn his 34th win of the 2010-11 season. (So much for a sophomore slump for the Stanley Cup winner, eh?)

Statistically speaking, Willie Mitchell might have had the worst night with a -4 rating, but few Kings players have a reason to keep their heads high in this one. They are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, but playing this way without Anze Kopitar makes one wonder if they will be able to make much noise in the merciless West.

Then again, crazy things can happen in the playoffs, and the Kings have the kind of stingy defense and goaltending potential to be a nuisance if the bounces go their way. (I’m not saying I would bet on it, though.)

The Sharks moved into second place in the West while the Kings slid down to fifth place since the Phoenix Coyotes hold the non-shootout win tiebreaker. It seems like this game was an example of two teams moving in different directions, but we’ll see once the playoffs begin.