LOS ANGELES – Home ice advantage hasn’t meant anything this season when the San Jose Sharks have played the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings have won all three meetings in San Jose and the Sharks have prevailed both times at Staples Center, including Wednesday night’s 3-2 victory – which gave them a club-record seven straight road wins. The previous club mark was set Nov. 30-Dec. 19, 2001.
“We get out to good starts on the road,” coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s easier to play on the road when you have a one-goal or two-goal lead. It seems a lot more difficult to do that at home because everybody tries to get fancy.”
Milan Michalek had his seventh career two-goal game, Joe Pavelski also scored and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 29 shots for San Jose in the opener of a four-game road trip, helping send the team with the NHL’s worst record to its eighth straight loss overall.
The losing streak is the Kings’ longest since 2003-04, when they dropped their final 11 games. They have won only four of their last 22 overall, with two of those victories coming at San Jose. Dustin Brown, the team’s leading goal scorer, returned to the lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury and had only three shots in net in almost 22 minutes of ice time.
“The only solace in all of this hopefully is that the guys learn to hate losing,” said coach Marc Crawford, who was booed by the sellout crowd of 18,118 when his name was announced along with the starting lineup. “There’s some dejected people in our room right now, but I don’t think anybody is quitting. There’s a lot of effort. All you can ask for is better execution.”
The Sharks came in with an overall percentage of 87.1 on the penalty kill, and a 91.2 mark away from the Shark Tank. They gave up power-play goals by Rob Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky, but managed to kill off a five-minute man advantage the Kings received after Craig Rivet was ejected at 17:20 of the second period for cross-checking Ladislav Nagy in the throat.
The attempt-to-injure penalty was in retaliation for Nagy’s cross-check against one of Rivet’s teammates seconds earlier. Nabokov stopped all three shots during those pulsating five minutes, preserving the Sharks’ one-goal lead, and Michalek made it 3-1 just 64 seconds later when he redirected Joe Thornton’s shot for his 12th goal with 16:24 to play.
“It was very important to kill that penalty because it was five minutes. We scored right after that, and that was the game right there,” Michalek said. “It was important to win tonight because we’ve lost three games against them.”
Los Angeles goalie Jason LaBarbera absorbed his fifth loss in as many games after missing the previous eight because of a rib injury. He allowed two goals on nine shots in the first 12:43 of play and was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Aubin.
The Sharks, who did not have a first-period goal in any of their previous four games, opened the scoring at the 9:02 mark when Michalek beat LaBarbera through a screen with a one-timer from the top of the left circle to end a five-game scoring drought.
“He took advantage and got a couple of lucky bounces,” Wilson said. “I’m glad his luck changed a little bit.”
Pavelski made it 2-0 with his eighth of the season. He came out of the right corner with the puck and took a sharp-angle shot that LaBarbera stopped, but Kings centre Anze Kopitar couldn’t control the rebound and Pavelski flipped it into the top right corner over LaBarbera’s glove.
Blake got Los Angeles on the board at 6:18 of the second period, beating Nabokov to the glove side with a one-timer from the top of the right circle while Sharks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff was serving an interference penalty.
Visnovsky ended the scoring 28 seconds before the final horn while Matt Carle was off for slashing. It was only the eighth power-play goal allowed on the road by the Sharks.
“Our special teams were very good, but unfortunately it didn’t make the difference tonight because they scored all their goals 5-on-5,” Crawford said.
Jonathan Cheechoo returned to the San Jose lineup after missing seven games because of a groin injury, getting four shots on net in less than 15 minutes of ice time. Cheechoo has only four goals in 29 games this season, after leading the team with 37 last season and leading the league with a career-high 56 in 2005-06.
Notes: The Kings observed a moment of silence for longtime Los Angeles TV and radio sportscaster Stu Nahan, who died Wednesday at age 81 from lymphoma. Nahan did play-by-play of the Kings’ first game at the Inglewood Forum on Dec. 30, 1967 while working the game for CBS Sports.