San Jose Sharks Four-Game Winning Streak Snapped By LA Kings
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The San Jose Sharks entered Wednesday night's game with a chance to break back into the playoff picture in the hotly competitive Western Conference despite enduring a six-game losing streak this month.
They succeeded, sort of.
The way the NHL shows standings, the Sharks are tied with the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks at 56 points in 50 games. They have beaten Chicago in all three contests so far this season but lost in overtime in the only previous game against Colorado.
Because it is a three-way tie with an odd number of games, Chicago gets the nod for the seventh spot by having more wins, and the Sharks edge out the Avs because of a better goal differential.
Got all that?
That means technically the Sharks have the eighth and final spot in the West right now. But the reality is the Minnesota Wild, winners of two out of three games against San Jose, are one point behind the Sharks with one fewer game played.
That means they have captured a 10th of a percent more of their possible points than the three teams tied at 56. In any rational league standings, the Wild would be in seventh, dropping the defending Stanley Cup champions to eighth and the Sharks out of the playoffs.
In either case, the Sharks are a bubble team. They have been a bubble team all year because they are inconsistent, teasing fans into thinking they are great and infuriating them with missed opportunities.
Who will win the Pacific Division?
Wednesday's game was no exception.
The game started at a high pace, but through the first commercial break, the teams combined for just one shot on goal. By the end of the first, the Sharks were out-shooting the Kings 8-6 but the game was scoreless.
In the second period, there was more of the same until Ryan Smyth broke the scoreless tie with a goal through a screen 13:25 into the middle frame on the Kings' 11th shot. The Sharks answered back quickly with two goals 39 seconds apart from Ryane Clowe (in his first game back from injury) and Devin Setoguchi.
San Jose held the Kings to four shots in the third period, but Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal was one of them. The hosts held the puck in the offensive zone for nearly a minute until he finally took two whacks at it from the slot (the first was blocked) and it slid through the five hole of Annti Niemi.
But the Sharks had a glorious chance to take the game when Douglas Murray took a high stick to the face that drew blood, creating a four-minute double-minor with 6:41 to go. But the Sharks appeared to lack urgency and got just three shots and no quality scoring chances.
In the remainder of the third period and overtime, both teams had good chances, and it looked like Couture was going to score sitting on the ice. But Jonathan Quick made the best of his 22 saves and nothing more was scored.
Even in the shootout, the goalies both stopped the first three shooters before a goal from Jarret Stoll gave the Kings the win because Patrick Marleau could not answer. The Kings are unbeaten in shootouts this season because Quick's save percentage is an astounding .864.
For the game, the Sharks out-shot the Kings 24-20, missed fewer shots (17-19), had fewer giveaways (14-23) with the same number of takeaways (six), and registered more blocks (22-17) and hits (33-30) than the physical and defensive-minded Kings. The only stat the Kings won was faceoffs (25-18), but Quick bailed them out with an outstanding performance.
It was the Kings second win against the Sharks, and the first of the four to go into overtime. Joe Thornton has yet to score a point against the Kings this season in four tries.
The win was LA's third in a row and moves them within a point of moving out of the Pacific Division cellar and into the playoffs. San Jose is off until Tuesday of next week.
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