No one associated with the San Jose Sharks circled the wagons following their dreadful 5-2 loss Saturday, March 16 at the hands of their Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings. Coach Todd McLellan was noticeably animated in the post-game press conference.
We had a lot of passengers. So disappointing. We play against the Stanley Cup champions back-to-back, and we're lucky enough to win one in San Jose. Then we come here, and you've got to think they'll be chomping at the bit and ready to go, and they're going to push you. What a great opportunity for our team to test themselves collectively, but also individually.
Obviously, they failed. They are now on the edge of falling out of the Western Conference playoffs and into fourth place in the Pacific Division.
The Kings are solidly in fourth out west and second in the division. They came out and controlled the game throughout the first period.
Kyle Clifford scored on a soft, bad-angle goal to give them an early lead. Then Justin Williams threw the puck in the crease and because a teammate was crashing the net, the puck went off Brad Stuart's back into the open side of the cage.
San Jose's first line responded on the first shift of the second period, and it sparked the team for several minutes. Brent Burns drove the puck behind the net and kicked it out to Joe Thornton. The captain got the puck to Patrick Marleau in the most unusual way—by shooting it off goalie Jonathan Bernier. Welcome to the new NHL, Joe.
But by the last half of the period, the tide turned back to the NHL champions. They scored three consecutive goals to take the game before the final 20 minutes were played. The fourth got Niemi pulled, and Matt Irwin got a power play goal in garbage time to reach the final tally.
Normally a glass-half-full leader, Thornton was critical of the team's performance:
If you don't have an 'A' game, you have to have a 'B' game. Some guys had their D game. At this level, that just can't happen against elite teams. You are finally feeling pretty good about your game and pretty good about the team, and then you take a step back like this.
Bret Hedican and Drew Remenda of the broadcasting team also used "a step back" to describe the performance. Remenda eluded to the team being negatively affected by all the warnings about the Kings.
This was actually easy enough to read in his pregame interview with Andrew Desjardins. The Sharks should have been setting their own tone rather "trying to match" what the Kings came with.
There is only do and do not, there is no try. One does not have to be Yoda to see the Sharks lost too many battles for position, pucks and plays to say they gave full effort the full game. That is unacceptable for a team on the playoff bubble in the Western Conference coming off just its third non-shootout win in eight weeks.
Real NHL contenders dictate rather than react. On the whole, the Sharks won three more draws, had one more giveaway but two more takeaways. But they were out-hit 46-36 and out-shot 24-22 despite attempting one more shot because the Kings blocked five more. Not surprisingly, all three stars of the game played for the Stanley Cup champion Kings:
- Clifford had two goals, held his own in a fight with mammoth Douglas Murray, delivered three hits, two blocks and a takeaway.
- Jarret Stoll had the game-winning goal, an assist on the final back-breaker, a blocked shot and five hits.
- Bernier turned away some very fine chances among his 20 saves, and could do nothing to stop the two that went by him (.909 save percentage).