SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Pavelski once again stepped up for the San Jose Sharks in a big moment in the post-season.
Pavelski scored 14:44 into overtime for the final momentum swing in a roller-coaster type of game that saw each team dominate for long stretches before the Sharks came out on top with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their all-California opening round playoff series Thursday night.
“It feels good to score,” Pavelski said. “We’re trying to get to four wins in this series. You have to get the first one. We’re on our toes a little bit more now. And whatever jitters we had are out now.”
Pavelski made sure of that. He took a pass from Kyle Wellwood as the trailer on a three-on-two advantage and fired a forehand past Jonathan Quick for his third career playoff overtime goal.
Pavelski scored nine goals in San Jose’s first eight playoff games a year ago, including a late equalizer in Game 2 of the opening round against Colorado and the overtime winner in Game 4 of that series.
“Pavs is a tremendous player for us,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We count on him in so many situations. He’s really recognized at this time of year as a guy who steps up his play and scores some huge goals.”
Dany Heatley and Logan Couture also scored and Ryane Clowe had three assists for the Sharks, who had lost five of their previous six series openers. Antti Niemi made 33 saves.
Dustin Brown and Justin Williams scored for the Kings, who have won just one playoff series since going to the Stanley Cup final with Wayne Gretzky in 1993. Quick made 42 saves.
“We were one shot away,” Quick said. “We had our chances. Niemi made a few big saves for them and at the end of the day they got one more than we did so we got to refocus. It’s in the past at this point. We’ve got to learn from it.”
Game 2 is Saturday night in San Jose.
The Sharks dominated early before the Kings took control of the game from midway through the second period to the midpoint of the third. Then each team had good chances late in regulation and in a sloppy overtime, with the two goalies doing their best to keep things tied.
Niemi made a spectacular sliding pad save to rob Kyle Clifford early in the third and then got fortunate early in overtime when Brad Richardson poked a rebound just wide from the side of the net.
The Kings killed off a penalty late in the third and then got a couple of big saves by Quick in overtime before Pavelski’s game-winner sent the fans at the Shark Tank into delirium.
“We knew it would be a tough series and a low-scoring series and it could take more than 60 minutes to get it done,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “It went back and forth both ways, fortunately Joe scored. The momentum kept changing in overtime but we got the last shot.”
After being thoroughly dominated for the first 26 minutes of the game when they were outshot 18-3, the Kings turned the tables on the Sharks.
It started when Niclas Wallin was called for delay of game, giving the Kings their third power-play of the game. Couture missed the net on a three-on-one chance and Williams broke back the other way on an odd-man rush for the Kings. He sent a cross-ice pass to Brown, whose one-timer tied the game 1-1.
Couture atoned for the goal when he beat Doughty to the outside, avoided a hip check and powered the puck through Quick’s pads just a few minutes later to put the Sharks on top.
But Los Angeles dominated play for the rest of the period, getting the equalizer when Murray and Boyle collided with Ryan Smyth behind the net. Williams, who missed the last nine games of the regular season with a dislocated right shoulder, came up with the loose puck and tucked it into the net before Niemi even realized where the puck was. The Kings put up 16 shots in the final 14 minutes of the second period.
The crowd was in a frenzy starting in pregame warmups for the start of just the third all-California playoff series in NHL history, waving white pompoms and chanting “Beat L.A.!”
Before the fans could even settle down, the Sharks jumped out to the early lead on the game’s opening shift. Ian White, playing his first post-seasongame after 401 regular season contests, got the puck in deep and set up Clowe. Quick made a pad stop, but Heatley knocked a backhand in for the fastest post-season goal in Sharks history just 28 seconds into the game. The Sharks kept the pressure up for the rest of the period, outshooting Los Angeles 14-3.
Things got heated late in the period after Jarret Stoll hit White into the boards, knocking him out of the game with an apparent head injury with 25.2 seconds left in the period on a play that will likely be reviewed by the league office.
“I hope he’s all right,” Stoll said. “You hate to see a guy get hurt in the regular season or playoffs and I definitely wasn’t trying to hurt him. … There wasn’t a penalty on the call so I’m not expecting anything.”
After the ensuing faceoff, Sharks enforcer Ben Eager squared off in a fight with Kings bruiser Kyle Clifford.
Notes: Teams from Southern California have won the two previous all-California series, with the Kings beating the Oakland Seals in 1969 and Anaheim beating San Jose in 2009. … The Sharks wore their alternate black jerseys for the first time ever in the playoffs.