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Kings ease past Sharks in season finale

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Kings gathered around goalie Jonathan Quick after the buzzer sounded and several players, including Quick, smiled. There was nothing left to do after the Kings season came to an end following a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center on Saturday.

"It’s been pretty stressful," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "As a team, we expected ourselves and we’re expected by everyone else to make the playoffs and when you finally play a game that you know you’re not making it, it [stinks].

"There’s been a lot we’ve had to go through since the All-Star break. We had to really come back and try to jump back in the standings, and we did a good job of that but we just didn’t finish off the job. It’s not nice that the season’s over but now we can kind of get our minds off that a little bit."

That disappointment was the theme in both locker rooms.

The Kings (40-27-15) and Sharks (40-33-9) were already eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention. Los Angeles is the first defending Stanley Cup champion to miss the playoffs since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07; San Jose ended its 10-year postseason run.

"I think our team was incomplete this year," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It feels today, like it did when we lost the conference finals and that’s the standard, the bar that you set."

Marian Gaborik and Brayden McNabb scored in the third period to end the Kings’ season on a high note and further dampen San Jose's spirit. Both sides said it was weird with both teams out of contention.

"There’s not many games that’s played where it’s like that down here," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "It’s annoying. It is what it is. The game’s enjoyable, obviously. We love to play. But you play for something."

The Sharks enter an uncertain future with their roster and coach Todd McLellan, who has a year remaining on his contract. Pavelski and Logan Couture gave their support for McLellan, who said he will review the season and reconvene with his family.

"We’ll get a chance to sit down and I’ll look at the impact that I think I’ve had and can have moving forward, and we’ll go from there," McLellan said. "I still feel close to the group that’s in the locker room, of course. So we’ll see what happens."

Gaborik scored his 27th goal when he took a pass from Jake Muzzin, stickhandled through the slot and beat Sharks goalie Alex Stalock at 9:27. McNabb’s slap shot from the right circle deflected off the stick of Sharks forward Tommy Wingels after a San Jose penalty expired at 6:03.

Kings forward Tyler Toffoli scored his 23rd goal to tie the game 1-1 at 10:47 of the second period. He tapped in a loose puck that Jarret Stoll chipped toward the crease after Andy Andreoff’s point shot. Andreoff got his first NHL assist and an empty-net goal with 43.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored his first goal since the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Feb. 21 when he one-timed Pavelski’s cross-ice pass on the power play 1:38 into the game.

The regular season finale between San Jose and Los Angeles came a year after they played in the first round of the playoffs when the Kings became the fourth team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games.

Fans showed appreciation for the Kings two Stanley Cup wins in three years by holding signs that read "Thank you" and the arena played the "Welcome to the Black Parade" pre-game introduction, the theme that was used for the 2012 playoff run.

Fans also gave the Kings a standing ovation at the buzzer.

"It was a big part of wanting to win today," Sutter said. "I talked to players about that yesterday. There’s not much to talk about after a game. We talked about it before the game. It’s important that we won two championships in this building in front of most of those people, and we want to do that again. And if we could turn around and give that back, we will."

Sutter provided a light moment when asked, "Are we going to see you in September?"

"What do you mean 'see me'?" Sutter said. "Am I invisible?"

Anze Kopitar led the Kings in scoring for the eighth straight season, with 64 points.

The Kings finished with 25 home wins, one shy of the franchise single-season record.

Kings forward Jordan Weal was expected to make his NHL debut after he was recalled from Manchester of the American Hockey League, but was scratched.

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