LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Neither the San Jose Sharks nor the Los Angeles Kings were satisfied with the amount of quality scoring chances they generated. Antti Niemi had an easier time than he should have had, and Jonathan Quick let in a goal he didn’t see.
Niemi posted his ninth NHL shutout with 29 saves, and Devin Setoguchi scored on his 24th birthday to lead the Sharks to a 1-0 victory over their Pacific Division rivals on Saturday night.
“To keep that team off the scoreboard was a pretty good accomplishment on our behalf,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Niemi was tremendous. He’s been in some very pressure-type situations in his young career, and I thought he looked very comfortable in the net.”
The prevailing attitude in the Sharks’ dressing room was that they lucked out.
“We haven’t played consistently well all year, at least not through any particularly long stretch,” defenceman Douglas Murray said. “We still need to find our game. We’re used to getting 35-40 shots, but we’re not getting that right now and that’s not good enough. We haven’t had that much new personnel this year, so we’ve got to get going and playing better than we are.”
The Sharks had only 10 shots before Setoguchi scored his seventh goal at 18:54 of the second period. He beat Quick to the stick side with a screened wrist shot after pausing to allow teammate Joe Thornton and two Kings players to converge in front of him.
“I was kind of waiting for Jumbo to push through to the middle, and he took both guys with him, which gave me time and wide ice to cut to the middle and walk in and take a quick shot on the net,” Setoguchi said. “But it doesn’t happen if he doesn’t go through there, because their ‘D’ can step up and play me. Otherwise, I would have been stuck on the outside and probably would have just floated one toward the net.”
Quick stopped 18 shots, including a breakaway by defenceman Kent Huskins at 1:04 of the second period, but the Kings were shut out for the second time this season and fell to 13-4-1 at home.
“We were not creating enough traffic at their net,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. “Niemi saw a lot of pucks that were coming from up top. He’s a good goaltender, and he’s going to be a better goaltender if you don’t create a lot of havoc and get in his face on a consistent basis.
“Once they scored with a minute and a half left in the second period, it’s an easy game for them—to play five back, which they did. Then we had to battle and find a way, and we just couldn’t do it.”
The Kings, who came in with the league’s best penalty-killing percentage at home, thwarted a 5-on-3 power play after Dustin Brown got a hooking penalty at 10:03 of the first period and defenceman Drew Doughty was sent off three seconds later for delay of game.
Murray spent his only timeout with 55 seconds left on the two-man advantage so that assistant John Stevens—who orchestrates the penalty-killing unit—could make sure everyone was on the same page. It also gave defencemen Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi a rest.
“We wanted to stay with the same two defencemen,” Murray said. “Greene and Scuderi are two veteran guys who are big bodies and block a lot of shots, and they did an outstanding job on the penalty-kill.”
The Sharks got just two shots on net during that power play and five in the entire period, including a 75-foot drive by Jamal Mayers in the final second.
Huskins’ interference penalty carried over into the middle period, and he was sent in on a breakaway by Marc-Edouard Vlasic as he left the box. But Quick stood his ground and helped extend Huskins’ goal drought to 50 games, dating to Feb. 13.
Huskins has never been in a shootout during his 254-game NHL career, including 36 with the Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.
“In practice, we always have a three-puck breakaway drill and he usually scores on two of the three. So we thought for sure that one was going in,” Setoguchi said. “But he got an assist on my goal, so he was on the score sheet.”
NOTES: The Kings are 8-3 with a scoreless tie on New Year’s Day. … The Sharks played on Jan. 1 for the third time in franchise history, all on the road. … Quick, who beat the Sharks 4-0 at San Jose last Monday, is 16-2-1 when giving up fewer than three goals in a start. In his previous start last Wednesday atPhoenix, he was pulled for the first time this season after giving up six goals on 18 shots. … The Kings didn’t get another penalty after San Jose’s two-man advantage. … Niemi’s other shutout this season was Dec. 2 at Ottawa. … Kings C Michal Handzus played in his 800th regular-season game. … The Sharks have won a league-best 109 of 195 road games since the start of the 2006-07 season.