By Daniel Reedy:
This NorCal vs. SoCal rivalry has made for great TV this season with three of the four games having been decided by just one goal.
The Los Angeles Kings evened the season series at 2-2 on a two-on-one breakaway goal by forward Tanner Pearson just 58 seconds into overtime. Tuesday’s game finished 2-1.
The Kings capitalized on a San Jose Sharks turnover and flew down the ice where Pearson scored his 10th goal of the year.
“I just kind of hung out by the blue line until Carts crossed the blue line and went down on a 2-on-1 and finished it off,” Pearson said.
The overtime loss was just the second such defeat for San Jose, who has won six games in the extra period and shootouts this season. Los Angeles is 9-4 in such games.
San Jose came out punchless in the opening period, managing just six shots while the visiting Kings took 16. Despite the abundance of shots, Los Angeles had few major scoring chances.
The Sharks remained relatively quiet, however broke the 0-0 stalemate on the wrister of forward Logan Couture. Couture took a short pass from rookie Kevin Labanc, skated in from the left side, patiently loaded up before snapping it in off Kings’ goalie Peter Budaj’s shoulder.
Budaj, still starting in place of the injured netminder Jonathan Quick (who has been out since the opening night game against San Jose) was perfect the rest of the way, coming up big in the third period when the Sharks were at their best.
Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones was also excellent.
He didn’t have a chance on Pearson’s goal and the game-tying goal from Jeff Carter was a perfectly redirected in off a high shot from Kings’ defenseman Jake Muzzin. Jones made several challenging saves, stonewalling open opportunities from Kings veterans Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
Carter’s goal was his 21st of the year, good for second in the NHL.
Kopitar meanwhile has severely underachieved offensively. With just three goals, Kopitar is on pace for the worst season of his career.
Speaking of disappointments, 387-career goal scorer Marian Gaborik nearly doubled his season goal tally … of one. Gaborik mishandled an airborne rebound during the second period, knocking the puck into the net but the goal was soon disallowed after the review ruled that Gaborik deliberately swatted the puck in with his glove.
Both the Sharks and the Kings, who ranked 20th and 21st in scoring entering the contest, continued to struggle offensively.
Though a total of 62 shots were taken, there were few scoring chances until the frantic third period. Both teams showed speed and quickness to the puck, limiting space and time for attacking opportunities.
The strong defense is to be expected from the fourth-ranked Sharks and sixth-ranked Kings in (goals against per game).
Tonight’s unsung hero for the Sharks was young winger Timo Meier. The rookie showed relentless aggression throughout the night and created multiple scoring chances.
Head coach Peter DeBoer took notice and promoted Meier to the top line with star forwards Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Meier still hasn’t recorded a point since his debut in which he scored on his first shot.
Veteran Patrick Marleau was demoted to the lower lines in place of Meier. Marleau was also supplanted on the powerplay, making way for stalky, but underperforming forward Joel Ward.