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Loss stings, but Sharks enjoy outdoor experience

by Eric Gilmore

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The stands were packed with 70,205 fans at Levi's Stadium, the third largest crowd in NHL history.

The stars were visible on a clear Northern California night.

The only thing missing to make the night complete for the San Jose Sharks was a victory against the rival Los Angeles Kings in their 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Saturday.

San Jose suffered a 2-1 loss to Los Angeles that knocked the Sharks out of the second wild-card playoff position in the Western Conference, a spot now held by the Kings.

"It was fun. It was awesome," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "Going out there for warm-ups … the whole event has been pretty good, right up to the end. It's the truth when they say it's better when you win. I think it is. It (stinks) right now."

"The big games like these, you want to win 'em. You want to perform. You want to do everything you can to help your teammates. You want to play for your fans. You want to push toward that second season, and right now we're not there. So there's nothing given to us and we got to go earn it."

Despite the loss, Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said he left with wonderful memories from the NHL's first outdoor game in Northern California and second in the state.

"This was by far the coolest sporting even I've been a part of," Wingels said. "I hope that the NHL continues to put games out here in California. I think it's great for these teams. I think it's great for the fans out here and I think it's great for everyone involved in hockey. I think they'll say the same thing. This was a pretty cool event. We didn't get the result we wanted, but I think this will be a memory we'll cherish for a while."

The Sharks were being outshot 11-5 and trailed 1-0 with under three minutes left in the opening period before they made a push that culminated in Brent Burns' game-tying goal with 1:04 left.

Wingels set the play in motion by winning a faceoff with Jeff Carter in the right circle in the Kings end. Burns got the puck and sent a sharp-angled wrist shot from near the right boards that deflected off of goaltender Jonathan Quick and into the net for his 16th goal of the season.

The Sharks outshot the Kings 15-6 but came away empty in a scoreless second period.

"We were hopping good," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "Probably the first five minutes of the game kind of went their way and then we felt like it was tipping our way. We were peppering them pretty good there in the second but just couldn't seem to crack (Quick)."

Pavelski had four shots in the period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic three and Burns two. After delivering three hits in the first period, Wingels had seven more in the second and finished with a game-high 11.

The Kings capitalized on a Burns turnover in the neutral zone to take a 2-1 lead at 4:04 of the third period. Kings forward Marian Gaborik swopped in, headed on a breakaway and beat Antti Niemi with a shot from the left circle to the far side.

"I was just trying to dump it in," Burns said. "I thought it deflected off their guy, off the dump."

After that, the Sharks rarely challenged Quick.

"It was an unintentional sag, that's for sure, but yeah, I think we got a little down there for whatever reason," Wingels said. "It wasn't like the game got away from us. It was a one-goal game at that point. Unfortunately not many scoring chances came after that for whatever reason, whether it was something we didn't do or them playing better defense as they were holding onto the lead. I don't know. In the end we didn't get the result we wanted."

When the game ended, Sharks center Logan Couture's thought's turned to the Sharks' remaining 19 games in what promises to be a tough playoff race. But he also continued to savor his first NHL outdoor game.

"A cool experience, something I'll definitely never forget for the rest of my life," Couture said. "I think the coolest part was walking out to the ice. And coming off after periods, some of the times you're coming off alone, and the fans are all standing and cheering and chanting your name individually."

"It was incredible, start to finish," Thornton said. "What an atmosphere. Once in a lifetime thing for us.

"It hurts. With this atmosphere you want to win and you want to leave this room happy. It was a good game. We just couldn't find the back of the net the second time."

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