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Sharks top Kings 2-1 in shootout

by Eric Gilmore /
SAN JOSE -- Two nights after erupting for five goals in the first period in a 7-2 win against Tampa Bay, the San Jose Sharks found a different way to win against the Los Angeles Kings and former coach Darryl Sutter.

The Sharks beat the Kings 2-1 in a shootout Friday night, with Ryane Clowe scoring the only goal of the tiebreaker, in the fourth round. After Clowe beat Jonathan Quick with a shot just inside the left post, Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped Mike Richards for the victory.

The Sharks won their fourth straight game, all at home, and will have two more home games after their two-day Christmas break.

"This game was really big -- I mean a division game before the break," Clowe said. "It felt like whatever way that game went tonight, we competed. We battled hard. Both teams did. It was a pretty exciting game. It was a hard-fought game for a regular-season game 30 games in. You expect that's how they're going to play or try to play under Darryl. They competed hard, but we liked our effort."

Logan Couture scored for the Sharks and Richards for the Kings, with both goals coming in the second period of a defensive battle.

"We expected it," Couture said of the low-scoring, physical game. "We play L.A. a lot, and every game's like that. They're a great defensive team. They're good on the forecheck. They play hard. We expect a battle every time those guys are in our building or we're in theirs. There's a rivalry between the two teams, and you can definitely feel it out there. We expected the battle and we got it."

When the Sharks and Kings met in the playoffs for the first time ever last season, San Jose won the first-round series in six hard-fought games, with three of them going to overtime. The teams split their first two games of 2011-12 last month -- the Sharks won 4-2 at HP Pavilion, and the Kings won 2-0 at Staples Center.

Both goaltenders were near-perfect Friday night. Niemi stopped 28 of 29 shots, while Quick stopped 34 of 35.

"The whole game I thought both goaltenders were really sharp," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "You don't see a lot of 1-1 games or that tight. They both played well. Both goaltenders performed well in the shootout. Ours was lucky enough to get one more save than theirs, but he did a good job against a team that normally wins shootouts a lot."

The Kings had won back-to-back shootouts, including a 3-2 win over Anaheim on Thursday night in Sutter's debut behind the bench for Los Angeles.

"I was fine with our effort," Sutter said. "We scored a power-play goal, our penalty-killing did a heck of a job, and at the end of the day it was left to the two goalies."

In the first three rounds of the shootout, Niemi stopped Jarret Stoll, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Quick rejected Joe Pavelski, former Kings center Michal Handzus and Dan Boyle.

Then it was Clowe's turn. He had gone 1-for-3 against Quick in prior shootouts, relying on his backhand. This time he switched gears and beat him with a forehand to the stick side.

"I feel pretty confident with that forehand move now because of the fact it's worked a couple times this year," Clowe said. "I got stopped the last shootout on my backhand, so I figured I'd try this again."

The Sharks came into Friday night's game off one of their best games of the season against the Lightning. They jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first 14:47, setting a team record for the fastest five goals to open a game. Even the struggling special teams stepped up -- San Jose went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and scored two power-play goals on four tries.

But nothing came easily against the Kings and Quick.

"We got a big point," Brown said. "The power play came through and got us a big goal, and Quicker was pretty strong all night. Made some big saves and kept us in the game. We had our opportunities, and we ended up getting to a shootout, and the shootout is what it is. We won the last couple in a shootout, but, again, it is what it is. Quicker makes a couple big saves and our shooters couldn't find a way to get one by their goalie."

The Sharks and Kings were tied 1-1 entering the third period of a defensive battle. Quick saved a goal just 6:26 into the third, batting a puck down, blocking a shot then smothering the puck. The Sharks might have scored if Brad Richardson hadn't cross-checked Couture. The Sharks went on their fourth power play of the night, but the Kings killed their fourth straight penalty.

Minutes later, the Sharks went on their fifth power play with Justin Williams in the box for holding. Once against they came up empty.

The red-hot Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with a one-timer past Quick at 7:53 of the second period. It was his team-high 15th goal of the season and fourth in the past three games, including two Wednesday night against Tampa Bay. Linemates Clowe and Patrick Marleau earned the assists -- Marleau dug out the puck along the lower left boards and whipped a pass to Clowe, who found Couture all alone in the slot.

"Worked it on the forecheck, got in there and worked their ‘D' over," Couture said. "They're a great defensive team. They don't really give up many chances. To find a soft spot like that doesn't happen very often. Clowie made a great feed to me. I was able to get a lot on it."

But Richards' power-play goal tied it 1-1 at 18: 52. Couture was in the box for interference after sending Brown to the ice as they met shoulder-on-shoulder. Neither Couture nor McLellan agreed with the penalty.

"I don't think anybody on our team was too happy about it," McLellan said. "In my opinion Logan had established his ice and Brown ran into him. Now, the question I would have is if Logan went down, would Brown get the penalty for hitting Logan? Not very happy with it, but they have a tough job. We talk about that all the time."

Richards, playing his second straight game after missing eight with a concussion, took a cross-ice pass in the lower right circle from Kopitar and beat Niemi low to the far side.

Richards' goal ended a streak of nine straight penalty kills for the Sharks, including two Friday night.

The Sharks outshot the Kings 15-10 in the middle period after being outshot 7-5 in a scoreless first.

Early in the first period, Brown appeared ready to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead. He had the puck all but teed up just left of the crease, but Sharks defensemen Jason Demers poked it away, and Brown whiffed. Niemi also made a spectacular save midway through the first, using his right pad to reject Richardson's shot from close range.

"Every time we play the Sharks, it's a pretty competitive game," Brown said. "They always have four on the rush, so they get a lot of those rush chances. I thought we did a really good job of cycling the puck and grinding. We've got to continue to get around the net, though. I think Niemi saw too many pucks tonight. We've got to get their more consistently."

The Sharks' best chance to score in the first came late in the period at the end of a power play. Pavelski jammed the puck toward the net, but Quick, lying face first, somehow pinned it between his pads, just short of the goal line.

Richards had four of the Kings' 11 hits and two of their shots in the first. The Sharks had just four hits in the period.

Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray (hand) and Jim Vandermeer (hand) remained on the injury list, although both have been practicing. Murray missed his ninth straight game and Vandermeer his eighth straight. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who has yet to play because of offseason hip surgery, was recalled from Worcester after three games on a conditioning assignment but was not in the lineup.
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