SAN JOSE, Calif. – Just in case the Los Angeles Kings were getting any early-season ideas, the San Jose Sharks reminded the upstarts what team has been on top of the Pacific Division for the past three years.
Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists, Dany Heatley added a key power-play goal and the Sharks snapped the Kings’ six-game winning streak with a 6-3 victory Monday night.
Heatley and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist, and Antero Niittymaki made 32 saves in the Sharks’ first meeting of the season with the Kings, who streaked out to the early Western Conference lead with 12 wins in their first 15 games.
The Sharks went 4-0-1 on their five-game homestand after a slow start to the season. San Jose also showed up for this showdown, producing its biggest offensive game of the season while scoring the most goals against the Kings this year.
“They are the big dogs, and they’re playing real well,” said Sharks centre Scott Nichol, who scored in the second period. “They’re the hottest team in the NHL right now. It was nice for us to come in and play our style and have a big home win. … The year is picking up now. … We all know the system. We all know how we should be playing.”
The clubs’ physical meeting should only fuel a longtime rivalry in which both California clubs have never been serious Stanley Cup contenders at the same time. It’s too soon to say whether this season will meet those marks, but the Silicon Valley fans certainly sensed a vibe, filling the Shark Tank with chants of “Beat L-A!”
Both coaches lavished their opponents with praise. San Jose’ Todd McLellan said the Kings are “the measuring tool in the conference, maybe the league,” while Los Angeles’ Terry Murray called the Sharks “the most talented team in the National Hockey League.”
Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi also scored for the Sharks, while Marleau’s third-period power-play goal was the 100th of his career.
Scott Parse and Jarret Stoll scored for the Kings, who hadn’t lost since Oct. 27.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 28 shots in another shaky performance by the Kings’ backup goalie, who appears to be struggling to adapt to inconsistent playing time. Los Angeles allowed just six total goals during its six-game streak.
“They beat us in the transition game, and our management of the puck killed us,” Murray said. “They rammed it right down our throats every time we tried to do something with the management of the puck.”
Los Angeles yielded two third-period, power-play goals after going five straight games with a perfect penalty-kill. The Kings also couldn’t capitalize on an officiating blunder that produced a two-goal swing in their favour.
Late in the second period, the officials failed to notice Ryan Smyth had clearly scored for the Kings, allowing play to continue when Marc-Edouard Vlasic flicked the puck out of the net for San Jose. The teams kept playing until Torrey Mitchell scored a breakaway goal that appeared to put the Sharks ahead 4-1 with 5:14 to play.
After video review, the officials credited Smyth for his goal, wiped Mitchell’s goal off the scoreboard and wound the clock back 71 seconds.
“(Smyth’s) reaction was like he had a goal, so it was like, let’s get a whistle and get this over with,” Mitchell said. “And then I got the breakaway, and I don’t get very many breakaways, so I’m going to try and bury it. I still had a celebration, too, even though I thought it might not count.”
The Sharks’ lead was just 3-2 when Marleau slapped home a rebound of Heatley’s shot to extend his own franchise record for power-play goals into triple digits. The goal snapped a streak of 22 straight penalties killed by the Kings, who still haven’t allowed a power-play goal—or a loss—at home this season.
Stoll kept it close with a slick deflection of Rob Scuderi’s shot from the point with 12:54 to play, but Heatley put a shot past a screened Bernier just 43 seconds later, and Pavelski added another late power-play goal.
“We lose the faceoff, they shoot the puck, and it’s in our net,” Murray said. “There was no opportunity to even get organized on the penalty kill. They were smart.”
NOTES: Sharks D Doug Murray sat out with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot in lastSaturday’s win over Calgary. Murray will travel with San Jose on its upcoming road trip. … The loss leaves Los Angeles one point off the best start in franchise history. The 1974-75 squad opened 10-1-5 for 25 points. … Before the game, San Jose honoured former goalie Arturs Irbe, who will be inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday.