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Sharks crash Kings' party, cruise to win

by Dan Rosen

LOS ANGELES -- The San Jose Sharks got the fourth one against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. This time they didn't need it.

The Sharks crashed the last big celebration of Los Angeles' 2014 Stanley Cup championship and ruined the party at Staples Center with a 4-0 victory against the Kings, who prior to the game raised their second championship banner in front of a standing-room only sellout crowd of 18,514.

The Kings' path to the Cup started with a historic series win against San Jose in the Western Conference First Round. They became the fourth team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 series after falling behind 3-0.

"I wish we would have gotten the fourth one last year," Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said, "but we're happy with how [Wednesday] went."

That collapse was absolutely on the Sharks' minds as they went through training camp and then had to wait in their dressing room for the Kings' banner-raising ceremony to end.

They talked about having a strong start to take the crowd out and kill any momentum the Kings might have had from the ceremony. They got it.

Wingels scored the first of his two goals at 5:43 of the first period. San Jose got three more before the end of the second, including goals from Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who wasn't announced as the starter until the morning skate, made 34 saves.

"It's been a long summer thinking about this game," Wingels said. "When the schedule came out and this was our first game the media loved it, the fans loved it, but us players loved it too. Not a better way to start the season. For us to be able to come in here and get a win here, it's one game but it's a big win and we're happy with it."

Wingels admitted the game felt different than any previous season-opener he's been a part of. Even though the Sharks tried to play it off as one game, they couldn't ignore the emotion they felt coming back to L.A., where they lost the first of those four straight games last spring.

"It's tough to see one of your big rivals hoist the Stanley Cup and have a celebration like that," Wingels said.

As the Kings celebrated, the Sharks were left facing adversity stemming from comments made by general manager Doug Wilson that they were going into rebuilding mode. They stripped Joe Thornton of the captaincy and didn't add any significant pieces to the roster.

However, the Sharks' lineup Wednesday didn't look all that different from last season. Fifteen of the 20 players who dressed were in the lineup for Game 7 against the Kings last spring.

Defenseman Mirco Mueller and forward Chris Tierney made their NHL debuts. Tye McGinn, who was with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, had an assist on Wingels' first goal.

At least for one night, the Sharks looked like a team that has either moved on from last season's King-sized collapse or has decided to use it as motivation to quiet all the critics that talked about their demise.

"It's one game. We're happy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us. We've got a lot of work to do. They had a lot going on in their world too. I'm sure they'll be better as they move forward, but we'll take the points."

The Kings likely will be better as the season progresses. They can't be much worse than they were Wednesday.

"Tough game," coach Darryl Sutter said. "Tough to take anything out of that."

The Kings had an excuse for their slow start; they went through a pregame ceremony that featured multiple videos, each player getting introduced, and the team as a whole helping to raise the banner above the circle to the left of the home goal.

But they never picked it up enough after a sluggish start.

Penalties hurt them; boarding on Drew Doughty and Mike Richards, tripping on Kyle Clifford and slashing on Jarret Stoll were called within the first 25 minutes of the game. The Sharks had a goal from Marleau on seven shots over four power plays and a 32-19 edge in faceoffs through 40 minutes.

Marleau made it 2-0 with his power-play goal at 3:20 of the second period. Wingels scored his second of the game at 15:50 of the second, and Nieto scored 14 seconds later, cashing in on a turnover behind the net by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

Quick made 23 saves on 27 shots through 40 minutes before being relieved by Martin Jones to start the third period.

"I thought the last couple of days our energy level was really good," Sutter said. "I think emotionally, [Wednesday], for whatever reason, we had nothing."

Niemi was staked an early lead, one that took a lot of the buzz out of the building, but he still had to make two important saves before the Sharks broke it open on the goals by Wingels and Nieto.

Early in the second period, when the lead was still 1-0, he stuck out his right pad and stuffed Jeff Carter's wraparound attempt that was targeted for the net. Marleau scored 80 seconds later.

"It's easy to say afterwards, but it's 1-0 so especially in the second when you're losing maybe momentum a little bit, you've just gotta stay sharp," Niemi said.

Niemi also stopped Marian Gaborik's shot on a breakaway with 5:54 remaining in the second period. Wingels scored 1:44 later; Nieto 14 seconds after that.

"We just didn't come prepared to play," Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said.

It made getting the fourth one a lot easier for San Jose. Who cares that it didn't matter?

"They're the champs," Thornton said. "We've gotta go through them to get to where we want to be, and [Wednesday] was a good start for that."


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