NHL: Sharks send Kings packing in OT, 4-3

Sharks

Joe Thornton’s goal off a broken play two minutes and 22 seconds
into overtime gave the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 victory over the Kings
at Staples Center and a six-game triumph in their hard-fought
playoff series.
By Helene Elliott – Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings gave it a good shot and that’s something…though it’s not a lot of consolation after a season that promised to advance them another step along the path to Stanley Cup contention instead ended with another first-round playoff elimination.

Joe Thornton’s goal off a broken play two minutes and 22 seconds into overtime gave the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 victory over the Kings at Staples Center and a six-game triumph in their hard-fought playoff series. Devin Setoguchi carried the puck and threw it into the slot, where Patrick Marleau whacked at it. The puck stayed in the slot and Thornton prodded it home from near the left post.

The Kings had shown resilience in erasing deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 but the Sharks’ depth proved too much for the seventh-seeded Kings to overcome against the second-seeded Sharks. Losing Anze Kopitar to an ankle injury late in the season not only depleted the Kings’ offense it threw off balance their defensive structure, and though they tried to compensate with grit and grinding and Jonathan Quick’s sometimes spectacular goaltending, they fell short.

They haven’t won a playoff series since 2001 and have been eliminated in the first round in two straight seasons.

“At the end of the day, we weren’t as good as they were,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “To go out in the first round is really disappointing, especially with our expectations.”

Kings Coach Terry Murray pointed to poor puck management and the missed opportunity of a five-minute power play the Kings gained late in the third and carried into overtime. However, the Kings’ season was probably too up and down, and that pattern repeated in the playoffs.

“I look at it as a very good year, a very successful year,” Murray said.

After seeing the Sharks take 52 shots at Quick in Game 5, Murray said he was less concerned with the quantity of shots than the quality _– but he said the Sharks had too many “Grade A” chances. They had a 16-shot barrage in the first period Monday but the Kings’ defense was sharp about clearing rebounds out of the slot and out of danger and that helped keep the game scoreless.

Quick held off the Sharks as long as he could, but he was finally beaten at 2:58 of the second period after an extraordinary effort by the line of Patrick Marleau, Thornton and Kyle Wellwood. The three buzzed around the Kings’ zone and caused two turnovers before Thornton controlled the puck below the goal line and had time and space to feed an onrushing Wellwood, who lifted the puck under the crossbar for his first goal of the series.

The Kings got a scare at 6:37 of the second period when steady defenseman Rob Scuderi caught an accidental skate in the face and had to go off for repairs, and their depth was tested a few seconds later when Matt Greene went to the penalty box for delay of game. They survived that test and came back to tie the game a little later, after Thornton got a double-minor for high-sticking Richardson in the mouth.

Defenseman Jack Johnson got the puck on net, with Trevor Lewis driving for a tip or rebound, and the puck came out to the right side. Justin Williams fired it over the glove of the lunging Antti Niemi at 13:27, the Kings’ first power-play goal since Game 2.

The tie was broken at 16:52 by defenseman Jason Demers, who was wide open to take a pass from Joe Pavelski and snap a shot inside the far post from the right circle.

The Kings had an answer for that and for another go-ahead goal by San Jose, ratcheting up the tension in the building to new heights.

Smyth made it 2-2 18 seconds into the third period on the uncontrolled rebound of a shot by Jarret Stoll and they continued to press. The Sharks called time out at 8:01 and regained the lead at 8:48 on an odd play. Ryane Clowe was trying to pass the puck across the ice but it got tipped up in the air. Brad Richardson couldn’t play it and it was pounced on by Dany Heatley, who rifled a shot past Quick from the left faceoff dot.

The Kings capitalized on another power play – this one while Demers was banished for interference – to pull even at 3-3. Niemi stopped Stoll’s first, long shot but Trevor Lewis scored on the rebound at 11:39 from deep on the right side.

But that was the Kings’ last hurrah.

“Right now it’s disappointing. Nothing but disappointment for now,” team captain Dustin Brown said.

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