LOS ANGELES - When Jeremy Roenick finally gets his 500th NHL goal, he doesn't care where it happens - as long as it isn't in Southern California.
"I want to hurry up and get it done and get it over with. But I've got to be honest, I'm kind of glad I didn't do it here," Roenick said Saturday night after his go-ahead goal in San Jose's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings put him one away from the coveted milestone.
"It will be a great thing to have happen, it's going to be awesome - but not here. I'd rather get cheered than booed for an American accomplishment."
Roenick, on the threshold of becoming only the third American-born player and 40th overall to score 500 goals in the NHL, spent one forgettable season with the Kings. Injuries limited him to 58 games during the 2005-06 campaign, and he produced only nine goals and 13 assists. The nine-time all-star spent last season with Phoenix and signed a one-year, US$500,000 contract with the Sharks on Sept. 4.
"I came here to be in a winning organization, to enjoy playing the game again and have an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. That is the only reason I came back," the 19-year veteran said. "The 500 goals had no basis on me coming back. It's going to be nice getting 500, but I came back for a bigger and better reason. I'm really blessed to be a part of a first-class organization and I'm excited every day that I come to the rink."
Roenick gave San Jose a 2-1 lead with 9:22 left in the second period on a rebound, beating former Sharks defenceman Brad Stuart to the bouncing puck and flicking it past Jason LaBarbera's glove after Alexei Semenov's snap shot caromed off the goalie's chest. It was his fourth goal this season and third game-winner.
"They've come at the right time, that's for sure," said the 37-year-old centre, who has 85 game-winning goals in the regular season.
"I didn't get a lot of ice time, but I made use of what I had. I had my pompoms out in the third period and had a good time. You win with your best players and you lose with your best players, so it's only smart that you shorten your bench. And we needed a win."
Roenick had less than eight minutes of playing time after getting more than 11???? minutes in each of the previous six games. He was on the ice during the final 1???? minutes after the Kings pulled LaBarbera for an extra attacker, but had no intention of shooting for the vacated net. Only three players have scored their 500th goal into an empty net - Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri - and Roenick is determined not to be the fourth.
"I'm not going to get an empty-netter. I'll pass it. That's a promise. It's not going to happen," he said.
Joe Pavelski connected on a power play, Jonathan Cheechoo scored in the third period and Joe Thornton had two assists for the Sharks. Cheechoo completed the scoring with 6:23 to play, beating LaBarbera with a one-timer from 25 feet in the slot as the puck trickled through the goalie's pads.
"We were pressing a little bit," Kings forward Michael Cammalleri said. "We played more of an impatient game. It was a big game that we were excited about. We were at home and we wanted to play hard. It could have been a big win for us."
The Sharks, who were short-handed only three times in their previous two games combined, sent out their penalty-killing unit three times during a 10:10 span of the first period. Stuart tied the score at 1 at 5:28 of the period, beating Evgeni Nabokov with a slap shot from the left point just one second after Matt Carle finished serving San Jose's first penalty.
Pavelski opened the scoring at the 2:21 mark, beating LaBarbera with a one-timer from the left circle after Kings forward Alexander Frolov was sent off for hooking Devin Setoguchi. It was the only penalty of the game for the Kings, who came in averaging 12.2 penalty minutes - third-fewest in the league.
Notes: Among American-born players, only Mike Modano (509) and Joey Mullen (502) have more goals than Roenick. ... Only one penalty was called by referees Kerry Fraser and Wes McCauley after the first period - a hooking infraction against San Jose's Kyle McLaren. ... Kings C Derek Armstrong and Sharks rookie C Torrey Mitchell are among eight forwards in the league to have played at least 14 games this season without scoring a goal. ... Kings LW Kyle Calder missed his second game because of a fractured left thumb. ... The Kings are 0-7 when trailing after two periods. ... The Sharks were 0-for-13 on the power play over their previous three contests. ... Roenick is one of five players on the Sharks' roster who were top-10 picks in their respective drafts, including McLaren, Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek.