There was really no better platform for the Sharks to shoot out the gate and dominate the LA Kings than on national TV, on the last night before the NHL All-Star break. Not to mention that it was on a night promoting and featuring some Bay Area-based heavy metal band called Metallica.
“That was wicked,” Logan Couture smiled as he recalled the energy the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers brought to the SAP Center crowd. “That was one of the best experiences I’ve had during hockey. That was so cool.”
Perhaps what made it cooler was that the Sharks pulled off a very convincing 4-2 victory. From the moment James Hetfield announced the starting lineup, the ice was tilted in Team Teal’s favor and those issues with the team’s “internal drive” seemed to be a bad dream.
“What’s most satisfying it the competitiveness that we showed up with,” Todd McLellan said in relation to comments had made after the loss to the New Jersey Devils. “We have to capture that and be prepared to bring it to the rink after the break every night, because it’s shaping up to be a very tight conference.”
Since I might never get the opportunity to do this ever again, here’s what we gleaned from the Sharks-Kings game, as classified by Metallica song titles.
San Jose knew they needed to get off to a good start and keep the momentum going, unlike what happened against the Devils on Monday night. They did just that, notching their first goal in the premiere frame and not allowing the visitors on the board in the first 20.
Couture carried the puck up the side boards and up to the blue paint before chipping it past Jonathan Quick to put San Jose on the board 1-0. It was the perfect jumping-off point for a team that has been struggling to maintain a first period advantage, particularly against a netminder of Quick’s calliber.
“I put Jonathan Quick, definitely, in the top three in the entire world,” Couture said. “He’s a tough goalie to beat. When he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it, 99 times out of 100. He’s too good if he sees the puck.”
San Jose kept the momentum going after that, and special teams played huge role in that effort. The penalty kill came up big in the tail end of the first frame with John Scott in the box, taking advantage of LA’s difficulties handling the puck. They killed another in the second frame when Brenden Dillon went to the box for tripping, keeping the Kings power play silenced.
“Sad But True”
The Sharks of course couldn’t keep the Kings off the board all evening. Dustin Brown achieved a wraparound goal that just barely eluded the pipe and beat Antti Niemi to tie things up 1-1 with a little less than half the second period to go.
The tying goal was made a bit more stingy by the fact that Quick denied the Sharks’ best attempts in the second period that would have increased the lead, particularly a redirect by Pavelski that created lots of chaos in front of the crease.
But San Jose didn’t allow LA to tilt the ice into their favor. McLellan recognized the “mental toughness” that the team maintained during that stretch in the second period.
“We didn’t get too nervous, too panicky about it. We did have chances that we weren’t able to score on, or we got a little too cute … But I didn’t get the sense that the guys on the bench were saying ‘We’re in trouble now because we didn’t score.'”
“Ride The Lighting”
The Sharks power play caught fire and rolled through the rest of the game. With Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the box for hooking. Joe Thornton’s shot tipped off Patrick Marleau’s stick to beat Quick and put San Jose back on top 2-1. At the end of their third power play attempt, Pavelski slapped in a rebound of Marleau’s shot attempt — which had been on the rebound of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic attempt — to increase the lead to 3-1.
Sure, the Kings made things interesting when they notched their second goal with 22 seconds left in regulation. But Couture let the home crowd go home happy with a dinger off the pipe for an empty-netter with a mere three seconds left in the game. Although, Couture himself didn’t even see the puck cross the line, joking after the game: “I’ve never scored without putting the puck in the net before.”
It was the perfect punctuation to the team’s overall play Wednesday evening. “We had the edge all night, “Pavelski said. “That’s kind of the edge we had. It didn’t matter if they scored, we felt fine.”
“Fade To Black”
McLellan wants the team to shut down and recharge over the All-Star break. “We want (the players), when they leave the rink now, we them to turn it off. Turn off the thought process … and recoup. That’s why it’s a break. The body needs to heal, the mind needs to heal. Then when they return and we begin to practice, turn the systems back on. But it’s a whole lot better doing that with a win than a loss.”