SAN JOSE, Calif. – Ryane Clowe got something more important than his first official goal of the season. He scored shootout winner.
Clowe overcame a rough start to the season by scoring in the sixth round of a shootout, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped Jarret Stoll moments later to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
“I’m just happy to hit the back of the net,” Clowe said. “It was good. Something like that will probably help give me more confidence. I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
After scoring 22 goals last season, Clowe was counted on to be a key scorer for the Sharks this season. But he has yet to score a goal – shootouts don’t count in the official statistics – in 13 games this season. The drought extends to 21 regular-season games dating to the end of last season – the longest since the first 21 games of his career.
Coach Todd McLellan put him on the top line with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley on Wednesday, hoping that would be the spark he needed. McLellan had enough confidence to use him in the shootout.
“Clowe is a very important player for our hockey club,” McLellan said. “Right now, it’s just not happening for him. We’ve tried a lot of different ways. We’ve tried taking ice time away from him, we’ve tried playing him with the top players, we’ve had talks with him. I felt deep into the shootout this was an opportunity to try something else. He should feel very good about himself ending it tonight. Maybe that will be the trigger the gets him going.”
Both teams missed four of their first five chances in the shootout before Clowe beat Jonathan Quick with a backhand. Clowe hasn’t scored any goals so far this season, but that shot will help make up for his slow start.
Nabokov sealed San Jose’s fifth win in its last six games when he made a pad save against Stoll. The Kings had won four straight games.
The shootout went the way most of the game went, with each team struggling to score. The teams traded second-period goals with Alexander Frolov giving Los Angeles the lead before Patrick Marleau tied it for San Jose.
Marleau got the shootout started by hitting the post. Michal Handzus then beat Nabokov to give the Kings a 1-0 edge, but Los Angeles missed its next five attempts.
“When you get to the shootout it’s like a lottery and you saw that today,” Los Angeles forward Arne Kopitar said. “We had our chances to put it away but everybody seemed to be bobbling the puck and couldn’t put it in.”
Nabokov poke-checked the puck away from Jack Johnson to keep the Sharks alive before Heatley tied the shootout with a wrist shot. Both goalies made saves in the fourth round, with Quick stopping Benn Ferriero and Nabokov turning aside Wayne Simmonds. Thornton and Dustin Brown missed in the fifth round before Clowe finally broke through.
Nabokov made 28 saves before the shootout to earn his 23rd career win against Los Angeles, his most against any team. He made a tough stop on Ryan Smyth midway through the third, when Smith one-timed a pass from behind the net by Kopitar. Kopitar, the NHL’s leading scorer, was held without a point for just the second time in 13 games this season.
“Nabby gave us a chance to work our way into the game and at the end of the night, he shut the door,” McLellan said. “Credit goes to him.”
The Sharks put heavy pressure on Quick in the closing minute of regulation, put Quick turned aside shots from Marleau, Clowe and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to force overtime. Quick made 29 saves.
Los Angeles outshot San Jose 13-5 in the first period but couldn’t break through until midway through the second, continuing a disturbing early season pattern for the Sharks. Frolov’s wraparound goal 8 minutes into the second period marked the 10th time in 13 games this season that San Jose has allowed the first goal of the game.
But Marleau tied it about six minutes later.
“We played a really good first period,” Quick said. “They might not have had their feet underneath them so we got the better of them in the first period. But Nabokov kept them in it and they really stepped it up there in the second and third.”
NOTES: Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Vesce were scratched for the Sharks because of undisclosed lower-body injuries. … The shootout was Los Angeles’ first of the season. … The Sharks had gone 119 minutes, 23 seconds, without a goal at home before Marleau’s tally.