NHL Playoffs 2011: San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings Game 3 Breakdown
San Jose traveled to the Staples Center to wrestle control back from the Los Angeles Kings following their embarrassing Game 2 loss. Entering the contest, San Jose again said all the right things about competitiveness, the need to get back to basics and stay out of the box.
The Sharks spoke about racing to three, taking control, starting fast and playing their “road” game.
It took just three minutes for the Kings to completely nullify the San Jose game plan, behind back-to-back goals just 15 seconds apart to open the game. It didn't stop there with the Kings pressing their attack, and before you knew it LA had chased Niemi and added to their lead.
Down 4-0 in the second period, Los Angeles took San Jose by storm again early and was dominating play. It didn’t look good for the men in teal, and the San Jose Sharks were looking like a team that just couldn’t wait for the team bus.
Everybody knows the things that are said about the Sharks in the playoffs, some shouted by fans and others whispered by “experts.” According to them, San Jose was supposed to pack up their bags and carry the weight of doubt back to the hotel for Game 4.
Instead they completed one of the biggest playoff comebacks in Sharks history, by storming back to tie the game 5-5 in the last 30 seconds of the second period and winning in OT.
One of the greatest playoff games in San Jose Sharks history, this epic comeback gives San Jose the 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.
LA jumped out of the gate early, carrying play in the San Jose zone for long stretches before breaking through at the 2:23 mark of the first.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell opening the scoring after his wrister from the left circle found twine, collecting the pass from rookie Trevor Lewis. The Sharks penalty kill rose to the occasion after killing off a double minor high-sticking penalty on Niclas Wallin.
The kill didn’t translate into much momentum, as the Kings continued to dominate play, especially through the neutral zone. The Sharks power play had a chance to strike midway through the first following a Willie Mitchell hooking penalty, but their scoreless streak continued as LA killed the penalty.
Just a few minutes later, Dan Boyle committed a horrible turnover while trying to transition the puck out of his zone, leading to the third LA tally. Michal Handzus put home the game-winner after Dustin Penner fed the puck across the ice for the one timer.
Just 40 seconds into the second period, Brad Richardson stole the puck from Ian White and added salt in the Sharks' wounds, pushing the score to 4-0. Todd McLellan had seen enough of Antti and gave him the yank, inserting Antero Niittymaki into just his third postseason game of his career.
Patrick Marleau finally got the Sharks on the board, tipping home the goal on the nifty feed from Dan Boyle, making it 4-1 Los Angeles. Dustin Penner’s roughing penalty at 5:10 gave the Sharks their ninth power-play opportunity, and they finally solved the King penalty kill at 6:53.
Ryane Clowe took the feed from Logan Couture and scored the power-play goal after his shot deflects off of Willie Mitchell and past Quick. Bringing San Jose within striking distance, the Sharks started to pick up their play following the huge goal.
The Sharks started to come alive after that score, carrying play through the neutral zone and at one point won 11 consecutive faceoffs. Couture scored at 13:32 on yet another terrific hockey play by Ian White, who fed the rookie for his second of the playoffs.
Jarret Stoll has been a Shark-killer this year, collecting wins in the shootout, knocking Ian White from his first playoff appearance and dominating the faceoff circle. He continued his trend this year, answering back for LA just 13 seconds later feeding an open Ryan Smyth parked in front of Antero.
Antero Niittymaki hadn’t had much work with the Kings sagging back, but had responded to the few shots he had seen. Unfortunately for him, he had no chance against Smyth on this shot with both Niclas Wallin and Joe Pavelski forgetting how to communicate.
The Sharks dug in and responded as they did in last year’s playoffs: With the roles reversed and the Kings reeling late in the second period, Clowe again answered the call. After San Jose had held the LA zone for over a minute and a half, and against some clearly gassed Kings, Clowe slammed home the Boyle cross-ice pass late in the second.
With just 30 seconds left in the second period, Joe Pavelski tied the game with Drew Doughty all over him. It was a remarkable play on the partially blocked shot by Ian White, by a remarkable player in Joe Pavelski.
Play in the third period mucked about in the neutral zone as the Kings sat back in a zone to slow down the Sharks transition. Heading into the overtime the Sharks had outshot the Kings 34-22 and shortened their bench, running just three lines and finding success.
Devin Setoguchi scored the game-winning overtime goal just three minutes into OT on a terrific feed from Patrick Marleau, capping one hell of a comeback.
What Didn’t Work
Antti Niemi struggled again as he did in Game 2 where he gave up two goals on his first 10 shots and finished with 19 saves. Game 3 was no different as Niemi could not save the Sharks early, allowing two goals on his first two shots. Niemi didn’t get much help from the boys in front, but he was brought aboard to be the difference and he’s coming up short.
Being chased in the playoffs is not a new thing for Antti, and he responded well a year ago, closing out the Canucks with a .945 save percentage after getting yanked. He’ll need to put up a repeat, because he didn’t look good early on and the Sharks need him to be himself.
In the days leading up to the game, Heatley, Marleau and Thornton talked about accountability and being better. But some of the turnovers committed are still of the mental sort, with some fancy passing attempts to blame.
Sharks fourth line
San Jose was simply outclassed by a supposedly thinner LA squad, being outplayed early by the ever-potent Westgarth-Lewis-Ponikarovsky line.
This line reminds me a lot of the Ducks line in that they are good on the boards and in front and very big and physical. This line is clearly the Kings best line this series and the Sharks haven’t quite figured them out.
Came into the game ice-cold and stopped the bleeding for the Sharks, coming up with some big saves late. The save against Simmonds late following the Clowe turnover high in the Kings zone with Vlasic backpedaling was a beauty.
Demers played big all night, strong in his own zone and delivered some big hits, none bigger than the hit on Richardson one-on-one in the second.
Shortening the lines
Rolling just three lines from the second period on paid off in spades for Todd McLellan, and the Kings did not have an answer at home.
White was very impressive in his return and his ability to create plays and move the puck. This makes a huge difference for this team.
The Top Line
Devin Setoguchi hadn’t scored in the last four games of the season and failed to make much of an impact so far in the series. Marleau and Thornton carried a minus-four and no points between the two, but the top line delivered tonight.
In a situation very similar to Game 2, the Sharks stars rose up and responded to the challenge leading them to victory.
A Game of Redemption
The Sharks had no business being on the ice in the first, after a ton of talk about being prepared and playing their game. The Kings were outshooting the Sharks 7-2 halfway through the first period, and thanks to a late penalty the Sharks finished with seven shots to LA’s nine.
From the second period onward, the Sharks rallied and brought a fight to the Kings not yet seen in the playoffs. The Sharks as a team tonight came forward and collectively stepped up their play, against a very strong Kings defense who is markedly better at home than on the road.
The game also featured its fair share of personal redemption as well, and you could really take your pick if you wanted a favorite. Is it Pavelski after blowing his assignment on the Smyth goal, or Boyle responding after quite a few ugly turnovers?
What about Antero Niittymaki, who signed with San Jose early in the offseason only to undergo a trying season with filled with question marks and injury?
One would also be remiss to forget the obvious pick of the Setoguchi-Thornton-Marleau line, who redeemed themselves with their clutch play.
Game 4 looms ahead, and although San Jose completed a remarkable comeback, they will need their best effort come Thursday.
Getting back to basics, crashing the net and traffic in front paid off for them in Game 3, and they would do well to stay the course.
Like the Colorado series last year, the Sharks will need to change up should the Kings break out the zone trap again. San Jose’s breakout got ugly again through the third period with the Kings sitting back and slowing the Shark rush up ice.
San Jose has been an excellent road team all year, posting 115 goals in 41 road contests, good for eighth in the NHL. Before tonight, the Staples Center had been impervious to the Sharks attack, as San Jose has scored a mere six goals in their three games in the regular season.
Despite the overtime heroics, this is still the second win of 16 on the long voyage for the San Jose Sharks and they need to put it behind them quickly. Against a sure-to-be-desperate Los Angeles Kings team, the Sharks have the chance to come home with a stranglehold on the series.