LOS ANGELES --
With his series-clinching overtime goal, captain Joe Thornton
advanced the San Jose Sharks to the Western Conference Semifinals for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, eliminating the Los Angeles Kings, 4-2, in their best-of-seven series.
The tally was Thornton’s second game-winning goal of the series and the first playoff overtime goal in his illustrious NHL career. The San Jose center punctuated his dramatic goal with a jovial celebration at center ice, before heading through the traditional handshake line with the rest of his teammates.
“Really I don’t know what happened,” Thornton said after the game. “All I knew was that the puck kind of popped out. I was just in front of the net and just grabbed it and put it in the open net. It was a pretty good play by whoever shot the puck. I was just in the right place at the right time.
One of Thornton’s linemates, Devin Setoguchi, was happy to see their line come through in extra time after being on the ice for Ryan Smyth’s tying goal just 18 seconds into the third period.
“We gave up one right early in the third period there,” said Setoguchi. “The puck came around the boards and I wanted to chip it and I just wasn’t hard enough on it and it went into the net. We were saying on the bench we need to get one back. We’ve been minuses this series, our line has, so we really wanted to get the game-winner and it worked out for us.”
Surviving a surge by the Kings at the end of regulation ended up being more than the Sharks bargained. Left wing Jamie McGinn was assessed a five-minute major penalty for charging and a game misconduct. But the Sharks penalty kill, which had surrendered two Los Angeles power play goals earlier in the night, rose to the occasion.
“Nemo (Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi
) comes in after not having the game he wanted to play last game and stands on his head for us,” Setoguchi said. “Got to give a lot of props to our penalty kill, starting with the goaltending. The guys in front of him did a great job as far as clearing pucks, blocking shots and sticking to our system.”
San Jose killed 3:23 of McGinn’s major in regulation, then another 1:37 in overtime.
“Our penalty kill wasn’t too sharp until that so we felt like we had to redeem ourselves,” said Thornton. “Once we killed that off, we thought we have a good chance. (We thought,) we’ll get the momentum after killing that and we did and ended up winning the series off of that.”
“We needed to really play a solid game to win the games we did,” added Dany Heatley, whose third period goal gave the Sharks the lead with just 11:12 remaining in regulation. “Tonight we had the lead three times and they kept coming back on us. I think that five-minute penalty kill was huge for us. Sometimes that’s how hockey works, you do a job like that and get rewarded in the end.”
After watching Los Angeles claw their way back into the game on three occasions. Head Coach Todd McLellan alluded to the fact that his team doesn’t always make it easy on themselves.
“We don’t do anything easy,” he said. “But I’m saying that with all due respect to LA as well. They play extremely hard, they were very well prepared, their staff did an exceptional job in preparing their team to play against us. When you don’t do anything easy, there is some resiliency in the locker room, the leadership showed through when it had to, we learned a lot about each other. It’s just a small part of what we hope is a long journey.”
The Sharks started the game with a strong opening 10 minutes, slanting the ice in their favor and forcing Kings head coach Terry Murray to take his timeout just 12:08 into the first period. San Jose held an 11-1 shots edge to that point and had out chanced Los Angeles by a wide margin. The timeout seemed to settle down Murray’s squad and the Kings responded with a few shots on Niemi to close the first period shots margin to 16-5.
San Jose’s best chance of the first came at 15:26 when defenseman Ian White snuck up to the top of the circles and ripped a shot off the outside of the post. Neither team was able to solve the other’s goaltender as the teams skated to a scoreless, penalty-free first period.
“Their first period was as good as I’ve ever seen them play,” said Murray. “They carried the mail, they were on top of us, they did the right things getting pucks deep, they were physical, they were hard going to the net, but we weathered the storm.”
San Jose again responded in the second, scoring a pair of goals including a Jason Demers
laser following an unbelievable individual effort by Joe Pavelski
. Pavelski began the play behind his own net, beat two Kings defenders to the puck, carried the puck up the ice in transition, waited for support from his linemate Torrey Mitchell
, then found a streaking Jason Demers
who made it 2-1.