After defeating the Kings 7-3 last Thursday, the San Jose Sharks returned to Los Angeles on Monday for their second match-up against the Kings in five days but were unable to continue the trend of recent dominance over the Kings falling 4-2.
For the first time this season, one of the Sharks goaltenders saw playing time in consecutive games. Vesa Toskala, who played 40 minutes in relief of starter Evgeni Nabokov who left the game against the Coyotes on Saturday with a stiff neck, started on Monday.
Toskala headed into Monday’s game with a perfect 4-0-0 career record against the Kings while at the opposite end of the ice offseason acquisition Dan Cloutier, who had earned victories in his three previous starts against the Sharks, guarded the Kings goal.
Early on it was the Sharks that dictated play moving well in all three zones, forcing pucks to the net but were unable register a shot on goal. The Kings responded quickly drawing the first man advantage of the game by forcing Mark Smith to take an interference penalty five and a half minutes into the game. The Sharks contained the ensuing Kings power play and the teams returned to even strength.
After failing to register a shot on goal for nearly the first ten minutes of play, the Sharks finally broke through. Captain Patrick Marleau
, Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier would continue their torrid pace and gave the Sharks the early 1-0 lead. Marleau received a pass from Bernier in the Kings zone and quickly moved the puck to Michalek. After skating through a check, Michalek beat Cloutier with an all-World wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle. Michalek’s eight goal of the year at 9:51 of the first marked the first time on the current road trip that the Sharks had scored the first goal of the game.
The Kings, determined to turn in a better effort than in the last meeting between the two teams, responded with sustained pressure in the Sharks zone for much of the remaining time in the first. As the first period closed, it looked like the Sharks might escape with a 1-0 lead, but Kings forward Alexander Frolov tied the game 1-1 with only 41 seconds left in the first.
The second period opened with Head Coach Ron Wilson reuniting Joe Thornton
, Mark Bell and Jonathan Cheechoo and the three responded with a solid shift in the Kings zone. Cheechoo forced Cloutier to make key saves as the two teams remained tied at 1-1.
Shortly after Thornton’s line went off for a change, the Kings responded with three inspired shifts of their own and took the play to the Sharks early in the second frame. Though it was the Sharks that drew two penalties in the period, it was the Kings that out shot and out chanced Team Teal as the Kings took control of the game.
Toskala was peppered with shots, but refused to budge and carried the Sharks through most of the period.
After withstanding the Kings attack and escaping the second period tied 1-1, the Sharks opened the third period with a clear sense of urgency. Behind a strong forecheck, the Sharks gained control of the puck in the Kings zone. Then almost on cue, Thornton beat Cloutier with a perfectly placed snap shot just 47 seconds into the frame.
Cheechoo moved the puck to rookie Marc-Edouard Vlasic
who held the zone at the right point and chipped the puck along the boards towards Thornton. The reigning MVP corralled the puck with his hand, dropped it to his stick and beat Cloutier through the five-hole giving the Sharks the 2-1 lead.
After Thornton’s goal, the game opened up as the two teams skated end-to-end with the Kings getting the better of the action. The Kings repeatedly kept the puck in the Sharks zone and drew a delay of game penalty on Matt Carle who inadvertently chipped the puck over the glass after a long shift.
On the ensuing power play, the Kings again tied the game. Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky rifled a seeing eye shot that found its way through heavy traffic and ended up in the back of the net. Visnovsky’s tally came just over three minutes after Thornton had given the Sharks the 2-1 lead as the teams returned to even strength with 16 minutes to play.
The Sharks would draw two consecutive penalties on the Kings, but the best power play unit in the League was unable to muster any offense, going 0-for-4 on the night.
The Kings however would make the best of their limited power play opportunities as they struck again with the man advantage with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Pesky Kings forward Dustin Brown took a perfect pass from rookie Anze Kopitar and beat Toskala who was moving left to right on the play giving the Kings their first lead of the game, 3-2.
The Sharks would threaten but were overcome by Los Angeles’ 2-for-3 performance on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Frolov would add his second of the game on a meaningless empty net goal, giving the Kings the 4-2 victory.
Jonathan Cheechoo was on the apparent short end of two calls that could have changed the complexion of the game. On one play, Cheechoo and Joe Thornton
found the puck through a scramble at the edge of the crease and pushed it past the goal line and into the open net. However the play was blown dead as the officials lost sight of the puck as it appeared that Cloutier had the puck tied up.
Later, Cheechoo took a nasty high-stick across the bridge of the nose but Kings forward Craig Conroy was not whistled for the infraction. Cheechoo was visibly in pain as his nose swelled on the bench, but the play resulted in no penalties.
Bell – Thornton – Grier
Michalek – Marleau – Bernier
Rissmiller – Goc – Cheechoo
Clowe – Brown – Smith
Carle – McLaren
Hannan – Vlasic
Murray – Ehrhoff
Toskala – Nabokov
IN THE SYSTEM
Worcester Sharks rookie center Joe Pavelski
is turning heads and making a statement with his impressive play. In addition to being named the AHL Rookie of the Month for the month of October, the standout forward is currently boasting a 10-game assist streak and currently leads the AHL in points among rookies (6-15=21 in 13 games). Pavelski’s 10-game assist streak marks only the third time in the last eight seasons in the AHL that a player has accomplished that feat.
Worcester Sharks General Manager Wayne Thomas announced today that the club has assigned goaltender Thomas Greiss
to their ECHL affiliate, Fresno Falcons. Greiss, a native of Koln, Germany, appeared in three games for Worcester and posted a 1-2 record. The netminder owned a goals-against average of 3.05 and a save percentage of .897. Greiss’ first North American professional win came against the Providence Bruins on Saturday night with a 6-3 win. The 6’1”, 190-pound goaltender made 22 saves to secure the win.
The Sharks conclude their four-game road trip as they travel to Colorado for their first of four regular season match-ups against the Avalanche. Game time is set for 6:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.