LOS ANGELES – The calendar changed, but the scene was still the same in the dressing rooms of Staples Center. The Los Angeles Kings casually talked about another close win. The San Jose Sharks lamented what went wrong.
Almost five months to the day after the Kings eliminated the Sharks in Game 7 of an excruciatingly close Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal last spring, L.A. pulled out another win Wednesday night against its rival.
Anze Kopitar scored on a slap shot during a 4-on-3 power play in overtime to complete the Kings' come-from-behind 4-3 win at Staples Center. Los Angeles erased deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 on the second night of a back-to-back sequence against the NHL-best Sharks.
Including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, L.A. improved to 11-0-1 in its past 12 meetings against San Jose at Staples Center. The Kings are also 6-0 in overtime and shootouts this season.
"I'm extremely proud of the way we came back from three one-goal deficits," said Justin Williams, the hero of that Game 7 last season. "We didn't let the game get away from us. We killed a penalty when we needed to and we scored a power-play goal when we needed to. We won one in overtime. Big division game."
L.A. erased a 3-2 deficit on Williams' power-play goal at 12:21 of the third period before Kopitar scored at 2:32 of OT with Justin Braun serving a hooking penalty. Kopitar had plenty of room to wind up with Jeff Carter crowding the crease in front of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
Did Kopitar hear people yelling at him to shoot?
"I've been hearing that a lot," Kopitar said.
On a serious note, Kopitar said it was "probably the closest you can get to playoff hockey this time of the year. I thought it was a lot of intensity, a lot of hitting. As usual when we play these guys, whoever wins the special teams usually comes out on top. We did that tonight and got the two points."
San Jose held a 3-2 lead with under eight minutes remaining when they took their second too-many-men penalty of the game. L.A. promptly set up in San Jose's end, and Kopitar fed Williams between the circles for a top-shelf goal. San Jose was outshot 12-3 in the third period and overtime and took seven penalties on the night.
"It's not the end of the world," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "Penalties are an issue and too many men on the ice is an issue for me. You would think that after it happened after the first time that everybody would be a little more alert on the bench, but for the same line coming up –and maybe even the same individual – for it to happen twice is unacceptable, so that really hurt us.
"I don't know if we have a lot of issues. We've got some things we need to work on. Some of it is just individuals being sharp, and you can't beat teams like that with a few guys that aren't quite there. It's as simple as that."
Special teams were crucial for both sides in the third period. Joe Thornton made a great stick block on Dustin Brown during a Kings power play, and L.A. killed Daniel Carcillo's boarding penalty after Logan Couture hit the post.
Of course, it never would have gone to overtime if not for the second too-many-men penalty.
"It was a tough call on the too many men on the ice on the last one," Thornton said. "We would have liked to finish them off and grab the two points. I thought we played well and probably deserved better, but that's the way it works sometimes."
L.A. had trouble taking care of the puck and paid for it on San Jose's first power-play strike, scored by Couture with 1:56 remaining in the second. Willie Mitchell couldn't clear the puck from behind the net and Patrick Marleau set up Couture for a one-timer from the high slot. Kyle Clifford was in the penalty box for goalie interference. The Kings have allowed 60 power plays this season, the most in the NHL.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter mixed up all his defense pairings and tweaked his second, third and fourth lines after a 3-1 loss Tuesday night to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Some of the moves worked because for much of the first 40 minutes, L.A. lulled San Jose into its game with its physicality – the Kings had outhit the Sharks 31-12 at one point in the second – and managed a 2-2 tie on 11 shots. Both goals came with traffic in front of Niemi, including Drew Doughty's fourth goal this season on a wrist shot 2:32 into the game. Jarret Stoll tipped Slava Voynov's slap shot into the net at 3:15 of the second period.
It was a Kings turnover that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Voynov's pass bounced off the stick of Trevor Lewis and the Sharks went the other way. Joe Pavelski buried Tommy Wingels' pass into the upper right corner of the net at 11:27.
The Sharks needed all of 13 seconds and three passes to exercise their first-period dominance. Tyler Kennedy passed it to Couture, who drove down the right wing and found a wide-open pinching defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic for quick shot and 1-0 lead.
Sharks wing Martin Havlat, coming off pelvic surgery, made his season debut but had no shots on goal in 14:01 of ice time.
"He did some good things. I thought he fit in well," McLellan said. "It's not an easy place to come in to play your first game, and he didn't have any exhibition [games] or even training camp, for that matter. For him to come back, I thought he did good."
Defenseman Dan Boyle missed a seventh straight game with a head injury.
|Marc-Edouard Vlasic (3) ASST: Logan Couture (9), Tyler Kennedy (4)|
1 - 0 SJS
|Drew Doughty (4) ASST: Justin Williams (5)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Joe Pavelski (5) ASST: Tommy Wingels (6)|
2 - 1 SJS
|Jarret Stoll (2) ASST: Slava Voynov (2), Dustin Brown (4)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Logan Couture (7) ASST: Patrick Marleau (7), Jason Demers (7)|
3 - 2 SJS
|PPG - Justin Williams (5) ASST: Anze Kopitar (11), Mike Richards (7)|
3 - 3 Tie
|PPG - Anze Kopitar (2) ASST: Drew Doughty (3), Mike Richards (8)|
4 - 3 LAK
|Power Play %||21.6%||19.0%|
|% on Road||19.5%||15.3%|
|% at Home||23.8%||22.1%|
|Matt Irwin Interference against Colin Fraser|
|Kyle Clifford Fighting (maj) against Mike Brown|
|Mike Brown Fighting (maj) against Kyle Clifford|
|Joe Pavelski Hooking against Justin Williams|
|Justin Williams Slashing against Logan Couture|
|Willie Mitchell Interference against James Sheppard|
|James Sheppard Too many men/ice - bench|
|Kyle Clifford Interference on goalkeeper against Antti Niemi|
|Tommy Wingels Interference on goalkeeper against Jonathan Quick|
|James Sheppard Too many men/ice - bench|
|Daniel Carcillo Boarding against Logan Couture|
|Justin Braun Hooking against Jeff Carter|