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Heading into Game 3 on Monday night, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo tweeted that he was ready to break out the brooms because the Sharks might sweep the rival Los Angeles Kings. After Tanner Pearson’s goal with 3:47 into overtime, though, Liccardo will have to eat his bold proclamation. The Kings picked up a pivotal win, knocking the Sharks off 2–1 in overtime in San Jose, and have new life in this series. Game 4 will take place on Wednesday night at the SAP Center.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
The Sharks can’t figure it out at home
Despite a staggering 28 wins on the road during the regular season (and two to start the series), the Sharks finished their home schedule under .500 at 18-20-3 and, as a result, finished in third place in the Pacific Division. It’s one of the most confounding splits in hockey; the Sharks are lauded for having one of the finest home crowds in the NHL and a host of veteran stars (Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture) who each have at least four years of service in San Jose.
Perhaps it’s nerves, perhaps it’s chance, but after being one of the best road teams in NHL history this season (28-10-3), the Sharks’ home woes continue to cost them dearly.
Defense ruled this one
While Sharks goalie Martin Jones has been one of the breakout players of the series, San Jose's defense has managed to keep the Kings offense at bay, often in the most pivotal sequences. Two of the Kings’ last three goals have been taps into open nets. Otherwise, the Sharks’ unit anchored by Brent Burns has done a tremendous job of blocking shots and clogging passing lanes. Until his first-period goal on Monday night, Kings center Anze Kopitar was rendered mostly ineffective during the series. He showed glimmers of his usual self during Game 3, but his limited production reflects the rugged, tireless play of both the Sharks' defense and Jones. Milan Lucic has yet to score in the series, and Jeff Carter has been denied can’t-miss scoring chances since his second-period goal in Game 1.
After a horrendous opener and a lukewarm Game 2, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looked like his usual playoff self in Game 3, stopping 29 shots and thwarting San Jose's key goal-scoring chances with mostly easy saves. The streaky netminder has attained the reputation of being (arguably) one of the best big-game goaltenders in the NHL, and his performance on Monday demonstrated why he’s so feared. With admirable help from his penalty-killing unit and defense, Quick turned away Couture and Paul Martin early before stoning Pavelski, who had logged a point in every game he played against the Kings this season, in the third period. For a depleted Kings blue line that is missing shot-blocking extraordinaire Alec Martinez and banking on Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty to play around 30 minutes per game, L.A. can sleep easily after a fine display from a unit that had been deemed questionable by many pundits.
Power play action
Kopitar slotted a power play goal in the first period to tie the score at one, but the game wouldn’t see another man advantage goal. That may not be unusual, but given how effectively both teams’ units were operating, it was one of the night’s bigger shocks. The Sharks, anchored by Thornton and Pavelski and protected by defenseman Brent Burns, have looked sharp on the power play throughout the series. After a Milan Lucic slash midway through the third period, the Kings’ penalty-killing unit was unable to clear the zone until there were under 30 seconds remaining in the power play. Somehow, the Sharks managed only one shot on goal despite a meticulous setup.
Only the goals count, but both units looked locked in. Carter, Kopitar, Lucic and Doughty moved the puck with grace against an aggressive San Jose penalty kill and were rewarded with an early goal. After that, the San Jose penalty-killing unit disrupted most of L.A.’s chances by either blocking shots or crowding them enough to force the Kings to shoot it wide. The Kings have been hounded by failing to cash in opportunities during this series and the Sharks have somehow been converting perfectly constructed power plays into weak scoring chances.