The San Jose Sharks took control of their Stanley Cup first-round series against the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings Tuesday, April 22. Winning the first road game confirmed the two dominant wins at home.
There is no denying the Sharks are the better team. Sure, they won on a lucky bounce and opened the scoring with a little luck. A puck is a fickle thing that appropriately rhymes with luck, but it often bounces the direction of the team that earns it.
San Jose lost a close faceoff battle for the third game in a row (35-36) but made up for it by taking care of the puck better, with three more takeaways and three fewer giveaways. Still, Los Angeles had the hit edge (45-53) in another physical game and attempted more shots (74-65).
The Sharks countered with more blocks (17-10) than the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, and got nine more shots on net (40-31) thanks to a 23-8 edge in the third period. In overtime, Antti Niemi bailed them out with three highlight-reel saves among his five overall until they could get their second fortunate bounce.
The first came just 3:16 into the game. After hitting so many posts on good shots during the 2013-14 NHL season, Brent Burns misfired on a Joe Thornton feed that Jonathan Quick could not stay with. That goal gave the allegedly washed up Dan Boyle—who led the unit in ice time thanks to a late injury to Justin Braun—his third assist in three games.
The Kings responded on a power play in the first five minutes of the second period. Tyler Taffoli got the puck from Drew Doughty and fed Jarret Stoll in the opposite circle for the one-timer goal. Just over three minutes later, Marian Gaborik blew by everyone on an odd-man rush to put a far-side backhand past Niemi's glove.
San Jose took over with a 32-13 edge over the rest of regulation. It took 78 seconds for Matt Nieto to knock down a Jason Demers shot to get his first Stanley Cup playoff goal a few miles from his childhood home against 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Quick. Patrick Marleau got the secondary assist.
The Los Angeles power play could not cash in before the period ended, but Jeff Carter tipped an Anze Kopitar feed over Niemi's outstretched pad in the first minute of the third period to regain the lead. Doughty earned his second assist of the game in those final eight seconds of James Sheppard's penalty.
Nieto then drew a penalty on Alec Martinez for hooking. Tomas Hertl got the fourth and final shot of that power play, then banged at his rebound twice more to score right after the penalty expired. Having the clutch, game-tying goal in a strong Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pacific Division rival that nearly ended his rookie season has to be one of the most gratifying feelings in the sports world.
Tommy Wingels and Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the assists on the play, but both teams locked down for the rest of regulation. The Kings were dominating the overtime with the first five shots through six minutes until Marleau ended it with his 15th career Stanley Cup playoff game-winning goal on a shot off Slava Voynov's stick. Scott Hannan had the only assist on the play.
Marleau learned Tuesday that he was one of the three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy for the top NHL player in "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." He had 33 goals and 37 assists in the 2013-14 NHL season with only nine minor penalties.
During his 143rd career Stanley Cup playoff game, he hit milestones of 100 points and 60 goals. He naturally leads the Examiner.com three stars of the game...