The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Staples Center on Thursday. San Jose forward Joe Pavelski scored two goals.
What we learned: This series is likely to exact a telling toll on the victor. Forecasts of a hard-hitting, physically demanding and mentally draining series between these two bitter rivals were spot-on, at least for Game 1. The tone was set in the first period when Los Angeles forward Kyle Clifford leveled San Jose center Tommy Wingels, and the hitting never relented after that.
What this means for Sharks: Everything. San Jose spent the better part of the past two weeks of the regular season having to dredge memories of their Stanley Cup Playoff collapse against the Kings in 2014. Thursday, they stopped talking and answered on the ice in the most emphatic manner possible. They beat Los Angeles at its own game and on the Kings own ice to put the home team on its back foot heading into Game 2.
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Burns rips it by Quick off the faceoff
What this means for Kings: It's time to address some defensive deficiencies in their game, especially against the Sharks. It was the fourth time in six games this season that San Jose scored four or more goals against Los Angeles. Two of the goals Thursday came on breakdowns in the defensive zone. Nobody covered San Jose forward Tomas Hertl in the slot on the third goal, and Pavelski got inside position against Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar on his wraparound goal at the start of the third period. Clean faceoff losses in the defensive zone by the Kings led directly to the second goal, by defenseman Brent Burns, and the fourth goal, by Pavelski.
Key moment: The Sharks did not fold late in the second period after allowing a demoralizing shorthanded goal by forward Trevor Lewis at 17:18. Lewis, a prototypical checker, flashed all kinds of skill on a toe-drag deke of Burns to get off a wicked wrist shot that goalie Martin Jones couldn't handle, giving the Kings a 3-2 lead. Thirty seconds later, Hertl answered on the same power play, diluting whatever momentum Los Angeles hoped to gain from the shorthanded goal.
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Hertl buries loose puck for PPG
Unsung player of the game: The Sharks wanted forward Joel Ward to play the heavy game necessary to succeed in the Western Conference playoffs. He delivered in Game 1; his fingerprints were all over the good things San Jose experienced. His faceoff win against Jeff Carter set up Burns' goal in the second period, and his strength in front of the net kept a play alive and allowed Hertl to shovel home a loose puck to tie it 3-3.
What's next: Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Staples Center on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-W, CSN-CA). The 45 hours between the end of the game Thursday and the start of game 2 may be just long enough to heal some of the bumps and bruises from Game 1.