SAN JOSE, Calif. – A backup goalie and a sleep-deprived rookie made sure the San Jose Sharks stayed stuck in their early-season slump.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 45 saves and Matt Moulson scored the go-ahead goal in his NHL debut as the Los Angeles Kings earned their fifth victory in six games, 5-2 over the Sharks on Friday night.
Dustin Brown scored two goals and Mike Cammalleri got his 11th goal and two assists as the first-place Kings ruined the Sharks’ return from a 13-day road jaunt. Los Angeles posted its third win in 15 trips to San Jose despite an overwhelming shot advantage for the Sharks, who got dispirited when they realized Aubin was in top form.
“We needed (Aubin) to be great early, and he was,” Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said. “Everybody knows the Sharks are a really strong club, and that won’t change. But great goaltending allows you to build confidence in yourselves.”
Aubin gave up seven goals and got pulled once in his only two previous appearances for the Kings this season, but Jason LaBarbera’s veteran backup was sensational in his first start since Oct. 18. He made 34 saves in the first two periods under constant assault from San Jose’s talented forwards, and his teammates rallied with four goals in the final 26 minutes.
San Jose’s 47 shots matched the most Aubin had faced in his nine NHL seasons.
“It felt like a little more,” Aubin said. “You know you’re going to play (San Jose) eight times, so you’d better make sure you’re ready. I felt pretty good this morning, but it was a tough game.”
Captain Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton scored and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 24 shots for the Sharks, who finally returned home after playing nine of their first 12 games on the road. San Jose fell to 1-3 at the Shark Tank before travelling to Los Angeles for a rematch Saturday night.
“We can’t give up, and you can’t veer off the plan when they don’t go in,” coach Ron Wilson said. “Why change? The opportunities are there. You just keep on persevering. Right now our perseverance level is low. We’ve got to find a way to persevere, that’s all.”
Not everything went poorly for the Sharks: Defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh got a rousing ovation when he was introduced in the starting lineup more than 12 years after his last appearance with the Sharks, and the seven-time all-star played fairly well.
Ozolinsh, who appeared washed up with the New York Rangers last season, was signed by the Sharks earlier Friday after a six-week tryout with the organization that drafted him in 1991. The 35-year-old, who’s been skating with his new teammates since training camp, immediately got a shot on the Sharks’ top power play unit.
“Mentally, about the second period, that’s when the shackles came off,” said Ozolinsh, who played more than 20 minutes. “The first 30 minutes were a little off. We outshot them big-time, but I think we lost our composure a little bit, and we didn’t do the little things.”
After Marleau scored just his second goal in 12 games for San Jose, Cammalleri evened it early in the second period with a deflected shot into a crowd in front of Nabokov’s net. The NHL’s early goals leader hadn’t scored in three games after getting 10 goals in the Kings’ first 10 contests.
Moulson, a former Cornell star, was called up by the Kings on Thursday – his 24th birthday – when Kyle Calder went on injured reserve. Moulson had just stepped out of the shower after a minor-league practice in Manchester, N.H., when he got orders to get on a plane to the Bay Area, where he spent a sleepless night before his debut.
“I was just trying to think about calming my nerves down out there,” Moulson said. “It felt good to get on the ice and just try to concentrate on the game.”
Moulson got his first goal on a feed from Michal Handzus late in the second period, firing a shot from the slot.
Brown added his fifth goal four minutes later, setting off a round of boos at the sold-out Shark Tank, where fans expect more from a club picked to challenge for the Stanley Cup. San Jose trailed by two goals despite taking 35 shots and committing no penalties in the first two periods.
Ladislav Nagy scored early in the third period on a 2-on-1 break with Alexander Frolov. Thornton got his fifth goal with 1:13 to play, but Brown added an empty-netter moments later.
Notes: Kings LW Raitis Ivanans got a deep cut under his left eye in the first period on a deflected shot. He went to the locker room and didn’t return, but Crawford didn’t yet know the extent of his injury. … Ozolinsh and Los Angeles’ Brad Stuart, who spent his first 5½ NHL seasons with San Jose before going to Boston in the Thornton trade, are the top two goal-scorers among defensemen in Sharks history.