LOS ANGELES, Calif. – With just one period left before the All-Star break and the 10-game trip looming beyond it, the Los Angeles Kings shook off a month of frustration by showing their home fans they really do know how to finish.
Alexei Ponikarovsky tied it in the third period, Jarret Stoll scored the only shootout goal in the fourth round and the Kings rallied for their third straight victory, 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves and stopped all four San Jose tries in the shootout after backstopping a flawless four-minute penalty-kill late in regulation. With grit and timely goals, the Kings closed out their lamentable January performance with a win that suggests they might still have a playoff run in them.
“We knew going into the third period that we had to go out there and leave it on the ice,” said Quick, 5-0 in shootouts this season. “We had nothing to save. … It was a real tight game and every play mattered. There were a lot of big hits and physical play around the net and in the corners, and you did get the feeling of a playoff game. The crowd was really into it—but in the playoffs, you don’t get the shootout.”
Ryan Smyth scored his 19th goal for the Kings, who played their final home game until Feb. 24. They’ll be all over North America while Staples Center is occupied by the Grammys and the NBA’s all-star weekend.
Los Angeles had lost seven of its past 10 home games, but Quick’s goaltending and Stoll’s second shootout-winning goal of the season allowed the Kings to snap the Pacific Division rival Sharks’ four-game winning streak.
Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi scored 39 seconds apart late in the second period for the Sharks, but Los Angeles shut out San Jose stars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, keeping Thornton scoreless against the Kings in four games this season.
“That’s a team effort,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “You’ve got to have the right D out there to match up with them, we believe, on the back end more than the line matchup, and your goaltender has to be very big. I mean, Quick was outstanding. That’s three games in a row for him now that he’s been great.”
Antti Niemi made 18 saves for the Sharks, but Stoll beat him cleanly in the shootout after all-star Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson both hit the post on Los Angeles’ first two tries. Quick then stopped Marleau on the Sharks’ final try in the NHL’s last game before the all-star weekend break.
“I think we came to play,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “The effort was there, the grinding part of the game was there, but I don’t think we were sharp enough to win. … Obviously, when you have four shooters (in a shootout), you expect to get at least one by him. Sharp enough for a point, not sharp enough for two.”
Both clubs recently emerged from their worst skids of the season, submerging two of last season’s playoff teams near the bottom of the Western Conference. Los Angeles lost 10 of 12 during a skid that began in late December, while San Jose dropped six straight and eight of 10 in a post-Christmas malaise.
“Both teams played really well, but it’s bittersweet to end it like that,” said Setoguchi, who has three goals in two games. “We got caught out there on a couple of long shifts, and that cost us.”
After a scoreless first period, Smyth finally scored for the Kings well past the midway point of the second. After slipping through San Jose’s defence during a rush, Smyth weaved a shot through traffic created by Stoll locked up with Dan Boyle, the Sharks’ all-star defenceman.
Clowe evened it less than two minutes later, putting a brisk shot past Quick’s glove hand on an odd-man rush. Setoguchi then put the Sharks ahead when Quick’s defence couldn’t control the young forward, whose shot trickled out from underneath Quick’s pads.
But Ponikarovsky evened it with his first goal since Dec. 18 on a backhand after defenceman Rob Scuderi made a slick play to keep the puck in the zone. Los Angeles then killed off Brad Richardson’ double minor for high-sticking Sharks defenceman Doug Murray in the final minutes.
NOTES: Niemi made his season-high fifth consecutive start while Antero Niittymaki is out with a lower-body injury. AHL goalie Alex Stalock backed him up—an improvement from the Sharks’ past two games, when Vancouver college goalie Jordan White and 18-year-old OHL netminder J.P. Anderson took the role on an emergency basis. … Clowe had missed San Jose’s past four games with a leg injury. … Sharks C Scott Nichol served the third game of his four-game suspension for a dangerous hit on Phoenix D David Schlemko. Nichol can’t return until San Jose’s visit to Anaheim next Wednesday night.