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Sharks look to slow surging Kings, knot series

by Brian Hunter


(Los Angeles leads best-of-7 series, 1-0)


Big story: Look out, because the Los Angeles Kings appear to be rolling again. The defending Stanley Cup champions not only got the jump on their Western Conference Semifinal series by shutting out the San Jose Sharks 2-0 in Game 1 on Tuesday, they've won five straight since falling into a two-game hole against the St. Louis Blues in the first round. The Kings aren't scoring a ton, but the defense has been tremendous, and goalie Jonathan Quick has rediscovered his Conn Smythe form.

Team Scope:

Sharks: The only team in this year's postseason to sweep through the first round finally suffered its first loss because it simply couldn't solve the masked man at the other end of the ice. San Jose took 35 shots and received three power plays but couldn't put a puck past Quick.

Sharks forward Raffi Torres did manage to raise the combustion level between these California rivals with a hit late in the second period on Jarret Stoll of the Kings. Torres was given a two-minute minor for charging, their only penalty of the game, and Stoll didn't return for the third. Torres was suspended Thursday by the NHL for the remainder of the series.

"To be honest, I didn't really think it was even going to be a penalty," Torres said. "They called it charging, but I don't feel launched myself. I took a step-and-a-half and glided into him. Obviously, he was leaning over. I still feel like I got shoulder to his shoulder, and then it looked -- because he was leaning over -- that I came up a little high … I hope he's all right."

Kings: In addition to Quick's heroics in net, Los Angeles seems to be replicating last year's formula for success by getting scoring from all over the lineup. Defenseman Slava Voynov had a huge first round against St. Louis, and he picked up his third game-winning goal of this postseason when he beat Antti Niemi with 12.5 seconds left in the first period Tuesday.

Voynov wasn't done. Another one of his shots at 12:30 of the second was redirected in front by Mike Richards to double the Kings' lead and, with the way Quick was playing, essentially put the game away. Now the team that started all four playoff rounds in 2012 with a 3-0 lead will try to sweep the first two games at Staples Center before heading north to San Jose for the weekend.

"We wanted to get off on the right foot," Quick told the Los Angeles Times after his franchise-record sixth career playoff shutout. "But we've got some work to do."

Who's hot: Quick tied Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers with his second shutout of this postseason, and his goals-against average (1.36) and save percentage (.953) are improvements over the 1.41 and .946 he posted during the 2012 playoffs.

Injury report: San Jose forward Martin Havlat (lower body) was skating between the first and second rounds but missed his fourth straight game when he sat out Game 1. … Stoll (upper body) is day-to-day for Los Angeles, as is forward Kyle Clifford (undisclosed), who missed the final game of the St. Louis series as well as Tuesday's opener.

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