Sunday April 17th, 2016

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Martin Jones logged 27 saves and Joe Pavelski added a goal and assist to lead the Sharks to a 2–1 victory over the Kings on Saturday night in Los Angeles and take a commanding 2–0 lead in the series. The series heads to San Jose for Game 3 on Monday night. Here are three thoughts on an occasionally thrilling Game 2 that puts the Sharks in prime position to stage a first-round upset.

Martin Jones calmly stifled the Kings

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In stark contrast to Jonathan Quick, the frenetic and often brilliant Kings goaltender, Jones doesn’t aggressively pursue pucks and adheres to his crease duties. It served him well in Game 2. Outside of allowing Vincent Lecavalier’s goal, one which was hardly Jones’s fault, the former Kings backup carefully handled any difficult chances and forced the Kings into a series of errant shots. Remember the Kings traded Jones to Boston for Milan Lucic, who has been one of the strongest players for the Kings over the first two games. L.A. may not have anticipated the Bruins, already stable at goaltender, would ship Jones to the Sharks, who instantly made him their starter. One could assume that, after this loss, the Kings’ front office is still seething at the Bruins for shipping Quick’s former protege to a division rival.

The Kings looked lifeless on offense

The power play was ineffective until Lecavalier finished a wide-open chance with 5:01 remaining in the third period, they wasted several scoring chances by missing the net entirely and Anze Kopitar remained surprisingly quiet. Even with the return of Marian Gaborik, who sat out Game 1 recovering from a knee injury he suffered in February, the Kings found no stable source of offense. Besides Lecavalier’s tap-in, the Kings hardly had a key scoring chance outside of a Jeff Carter tip in the second period. San Jose’s defensive gameplan has forced the Kings to rely heavily on long-range shots, and Jones has had little trouble stopping whatever has come his way.

The Kings’ mystique is waning

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It may be the wrong time to declare the Kings struggling after they returned from a 3–0 series deficit to top San Jose in 2014, but the intimidation factor feels low despite finishing the season with 102 points. The Kings have long banked on a trusty blue line, one of the game’s most respected big-game goaltenders and an ability to come back (they logged 22 comeback wins during the season). For four seasons, even one where they missed the playoffs, Darryl Suter’s team has thrived off the belief that it can overcome any deficit, whether in a game or a series.

But without one of their best shot blockers in Alec Martinez (who left Game 1 with an undisclosed injury), an intimidator in Matt Greene (who played just three games this season) and a chatty forward in Justin Williams (who left for the Capitals last off-season), the Kings appear to lack the panache that propelled them to Cup titles in 2012 and ’14. Despite the chippiness that exists between these two teams, the Sharks continually refused to engage the Kings in any post-whistle extracurriculars. As a result, the Kings appear to lack their typical mojo that they usually find by infuriating and subsequently suffocating teams. Perhaps they can turn on the jets and rally from a big series deficit like they did two years ago, but right now the Sharks are in clear and capable control of the series.

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