SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
The win moved San Jose back within a point of the Anaheim Ducks, who have played two fewer games. The Kings are a lock to finish third in the Pacific Division, making them the Sharks’ first-round opponent if the Ducks hold onto the top spot. The Sharks aren’t ready to concede that just yet.
Players acknowledged the game did have a playoff feel to it, and since the Sharks and Kings have met twice over the past three postseasons, the feeling was a familiar one.
Especially with Thornton in a sour mood.
“He comes ready to play, especially in these games,” said Pavelski, who ended up getting credited for San Jose’s first goal originally awarded to Brent Burns. “It’s great to see. Everyone fed off of it, the crowd was into it. It was a fun game, it felt like the playoffs.”
That won’t be easy, of course. The Kings have won eight straight road games and nine of the last 10 – the ninth being that 1-0 victor at SAP Center on Jan. 27 that broke the home ice domination that had dictated the outcome in the previous 15 games between the teams.
So what do the Sharks need to do differently?
“Their game is predicated on a real strong forecheck and our ability to beat it hasn’t been where it needs to be,” McLellan said. “Our net play has to get better, but in turn we have to put some pressure on their defensemen. We can talk about solving their forecheck and taking the care of the puck in our zone, but if it’s not in our zone, we don’t have to worry about it. So really, it’s forecheck vs. forecheck and they’ve been the better team in that area.”
Kevin Kurz: Thornton leads Sharks in win over rival Kings
A heavy game. A physical game. A man’s game. And, an important win, that not only keeps the Sharks within reach of the Pacific Division title, but sends a message that they are prepared to sacrifice their bodies and fight tooth-and-nail against Los Angeles, should these teams see each other in the coming weeks.
Thornton’s ornery demeanor manifested itself in the second period, when he jabbed Kings defenseman Slava Voynov in the midsection. Voynov responded, resulting in coincidental minors shortly after the Sharks had taken their first lead. Had a linesman not gotten over in time, it looked like the two were about to start throwing haymakers.
Then, on a late shift in the second, he nailed Robyn Regehr and shouldered Jeff Carter, proving that the incident with Voynov wasn’t an isolated one.
Kevin Kurz: Sharks notes: New line combos pay off
Todd McLellan explained his thinking behind moving wingers including Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto, Tyler Kennedy and Marty Havlat.
“(The Kings) are playing three games in four nights, it’s hard for them to go down to make it a three line game. We felt we’d get that from them, and tried to come up with lines that we could even everything out a little bit and play four. It worked for us tonight.”
FEAR THE FIN
But if they want to rely on more than pure chance, the Sharks need to take a serious look at what let them down last spring. A suspension to Raffi Torres and injury to Marty Havlat left the team with little forward depth and, as a result, a near-useless bottom six. Assuming Torres is available for the playoffs, they have the depth up front to avoid icing poor third and fourth lines this time around as long as they configure their lineup properly. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau were terrific in shutting down Anze Kopitar tonight; two other scoring lines capable of capitalizing on the easier minutes Couture going head-to-head with Kopitar opens up would put San Jose in a position to dictate play in most games.
The opposite happened tonight. So as much as the two points here aid the Sharks in their realistically futile quest to avoid L.A. in round one, there are lessons to be learned from this game to ensure San Jose a better fate against their southern California rival than they suffered a year ago.