(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
The San Jose Sharks lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center on Monday night. It was the first game in 15 between San Jose and Los Angeles that went to the visitor. In the middle of the loss, Alex Stalock broke Evgeni Nabokov’s franchise record for shutout minutes, set back in 2009. Stalock has reset the record at 178:55.
Did Stalock know he was on the verge of breaking that record? Thanks to an injured Sharks forward, he had some idea:
Other than [Logan Couture] reminding me every single day, but… I don’t know when it was.
In the end, Stalock made 64 saves through two and a half games before a shot got by him.
The game was one of the hardest fought low-scoring games the Sharks have played in a long while. That was exactly what Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had expected:
We got the game we thought we’d get from both teams really. It was a very tightly contested game, not a lot of chances at either end. They buried their one opportunity and we had a couple that we didn’t. That’s probably the end of the story. I thought that eight minutes of penalty kill time didn’t help us at all and to nullify a couple of power plays by taking penalties.
The game was noteworthy as a third start for Stalock in six games. McLellan has expressed an intent to start Stalock more, to compensate for the added wear and tear that Niemi might incur going to the Olympics. He appears to be sticking by that plan.
The Kings started the game with a long spell in the Sharks’ zone. They got credit for two shots before play went the other way.
When the first penalty was called, just over five minutes had gone by and only four shots had been recorded, three from Los Angeles. The penalty went to San Jose’s Brad Stuart for holding. Kings didn’t get more than a shot on the power play.
A few minutes later, LA’s Colin Fraser decided that punching Brent Burns would be a good idea. No one else thought so and the pair were separated quickly. Both went to the box with matching roughing minors.
The Sharks finished the four on four time in the Kings’ zone, but the best chance they had was a quick shot from Pavelski that went just wide. With 4:52 left in the period, the shots were 7-3 for the Kings.
By the end of the period, the Kings led in shots 8-4.
Early in the second period, Robin Regehr went to the box for interference, giving the Sharks their first power play of the game. The Kings did an excellent job of keeping the Sharks away from shooting lanes, which is essentially what they had been doing all game.
The Sharks didn’t have to wait long before they were on the penalty kill, as Dan Boyle went to the box for holding. The Sharks penalty killers, didn’t allow the Kings to spend much time in their zone at all, several times turning them back entirely before they could cross the blue line. the Kings managed one or two good chances but their power play wound up being even less effective than the Sharks’.
With 11:08 left in the second, the teams got another shot at four on four, when Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar went to the box for hooking and roughing respectively. As before, neither team could sustain any offensive pressure.
After such a hard-fought thirty-plus minutes, Stalock’s shutout streak ended with a quick shot from Anze Kopitar, off a pass from Jeff Carter. Anze Kopitar slipped around the Sharks defense and Carter sent a carefully-timed pass right to him. After the game, Stalock explained what he saw:
It was kind of a two on one and a half I guess. We had a guy coming back, and he passed it across. We got a stick on it, maybe it slowed it down and bought him a little time and he ended up beating me on a one on one play.
The Sharks drew a penalty in the final minute of the second period, a hooking call on Willie Mitchell. The Sharks didn’t get a shot on that power play, in the second or third period.
The shots at the end of the second period were 13-8 for the Kings.
Early in the third period, the Kings’ Slava Voynov went to the penalty box for cross-checking Bracken Kearns, but just 17 seconds later, Joe Thornton went to the other box for hooking. It was the third time the teams had played four on four in the game.
With 10:13 left in the period, the Sharks finally drew even on the shot clock, but the Kings were keeping those shots hurried and unscreened.
With 9:52 left, Joe Pavelski went to the penalty box for four minutes after high-sticking Kopitar in the mouth. The penalty kill started out inauspiciously. The Sharks had a short-handed chance but a minor collision between Stalock and Brad Stuart followed, and then a pile up of bodies on top of Stalock in the Sharks’ crease. The referee talked briefly to Stalock and play resumed.
The Sharks had time to get their penalty kill together. Tommy Wingels described that successful kill as a chance to build momentum:
Hard-fought, that’s for sure. I think our penalty kill at the end there gave us a chance to win the game. When you kill off a four minute penalty there, you get some momentum off it and I think we did. Ultimately with your penalty kill you want to keep yourself in the game and I think in the third there we did a good job with it.
The Sharks did get the puck cleared at regular intervals, keeping their penalty killers fresh. As the last minute of the kill started, Marleau and Wingels broke away for a decent chance, but the Kings’ defenders held Wingels up enough to prevent him getting a good shot off.
By the end of the penalty, the teams were still tied in shots, 20-20. A timeout and three shots later, the Kings had broken through the visitors curse by holding on to win 1-0.
Alex Stalock made 20 saves on 21 shots. Bracken Kearns lead the Sharks in shots on goal with five, Matt Irwin getting credit for four shots. Tommy Wingels and Mike Brown lead the Sharks in hits with five each, while Jason Demers and Brad Stuart lead the team in bockled shots with three apiece.
Jonathan Quick made 23 saves for the shutout. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar lead the Kings in shots with four each, Matt Greene led the Kings in hits with five, Greene and Willie Mitchell lead the Kings in blocked shots with four each.