Joe Thornton San Jose SharksTop to bottom, there are no two teams more evenly matched than the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. In their first meeting this season, Los Angeles needed a power play in overtime to get the win. This time, both teams played to a 2-2 tie by the time regulation ended and even five minutes of 4-on-4 play couldn’t give us a winner.

/sighs deeply

The only thing standing between me and finally unwinding after a long day of sports coverage (poor me) was a solution to the Sharks game, so it’s only fitting that the shootout went into the eighth round before a victor finally emerged. It was one of the most absurd shootouts I’ve ever seen — goals from Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Dan Boyle couldn’t get it done after Anze Kopitar’s bar down, Justin Williams lucky bounce and Dustin Williams five hole shot kept the scoring even. San Jose started running out of scorers … actually, they completely ran out of them when they turned to Joe Thornton, who was only 3-for-8 in his entire career.

The scouting report on the Kings backup goalie Ben Scrivens was obviously to deke to his right side and slip it past his left pad, because that’s how the Sharks made their hay. Pavelski, Hertl and Boyle’s goals were all that way (and also of the gorgeous variety).

While Thornton tried to cook with the same recipe, his dish came out a little bit sloppy. Thornton barely managed to squeeze the puck past Scrivens’s skate, but in the end it went in, and Antti Niemi’s stop on Linden Vey sealed the Sharks first place standing with three games in hand on the Anaheim Ducks.

Did I mention these teams are evenly matched?

They were tied for second place in the standings coming into the game, so something had to give when they took the ice Wednesday night. What’s bizarre about the Sharks-Kings bouts is that they play two different styles of hockey — The Kings are a much heavier hockey team, liable to wear their opponent out with the body. San Jose’s game is all predicated on speed, and yet somehow the conflicting styles make for incredible hockey games.

This was one of the more entertaining games of the year, albeit a messy one. The Sharks faced an early deficit after Anze Kopitar put the Kings on the board a mere 14 seconds into the game. But Joe Pavelski brought them back to tie it with a nice dangle in front of the net 2:43 into the second, and Thornton gave San Jose the lead on the flukiest of fluky goals at 16:54.

Hertl was credited with the only assist on Thornton’s score, but maybe Scrivens should have gotten one too. After all, Thornton banked a (pass?) off of the goaltender’s skate, which sent it careening into the net after Scrivens misplayed it off of the boards.

But just as the Sharks needed a little luck to get the lead, the Kings got some help of their own when Drew Doughty tossed a puck of his own at the net — a puck that bounded off of Scott Hannan’s skate and slipped past Niemi to tie it.

Special Mediocre Teams

Power play continues to be an issue for the Sharks — they spent a good portion of practice yesterday trying to solve what ails their man-advantage and still couldn’t capitalize.

Early on they couldn’t manage to draw a penalty; Daniel Carcillo almost gave them one after hitting Andrew Desjardins from behind, but the Sharks forward retaliated and turned it into a 4-on-4. Power plays slanted heavily in the Kings favor for the first two periods of the game, but San Jose couldn’t get out of their own way when the scales finally tipped in their favor.

The Sharks got three consecutive power plays in the third period — Tyler Taffoli, Kyle Clifford and Kopitar all violated — but the Sharks could barely muster chances. It was in stark contrast to the Kings’ offensive onslaughts during their 4-minute advantage in the first and 2-minute minor in the third. The latter produced six shots on goal, and while none of them went in, it showed the difference between these two teams.

Simply put, Los Angeles’s power plays produced shots on goal. The puck movement was comparable, but the puck was moving into high-percentage shooting areas. The Sharks’ only open looks are in spots where open net isn’t available and shooting lanes are closed off.

Off the Post

– I’ll try and keep this quick … I’ve got turkey on my mind.

– Honorable mentions go to Joe Pavelski and Antti Niemi. Pavelski isn’t even close to the biggest player on the ice but he worked hard to match physicality with the Kings. As for Niemi, he let more than a few pucks slip past in the shootout, but he was fantastic all game long.

– Scrivens isn’t too shabby either.

– Maybe Jarret Stoll is still mad about the Raffi Torres hit in the playoffs last year, but his shot on Desjardins was blatant targeting. The league should be looking into it.

– In the name of fairness, they may want to look into Desjardins’s elbow in the first as well.

– Coming from the team that employs Cartman to get their fans into the game, this is just too cute: