2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Preview
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 - San Jose 6, Los Angeles 5 (OT) – Sharks lead series, 2-1
Maybe, just maybe, this is the year of the Sharks. Even more probably, this is not going to be the year of the Kings… the only royal celebration worth mentioning this month is going to take place in England on April 29.
Yes, one of the NHL’s most snake-bitten teams managed to swim against the tide of its scar-filled history, while another luckless franchise suffered one of the most painful losses in its own bleak existence.
Devin Setoguchi scored netted the overtime winner just 3:09 into the extra period to give the San Jose Sharks a miraculous victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series. San Jose, which has lost to a fifth seed, a sixth seed, and an eighth seed (twice) since 2004, was about to fall behind the seventh-seeded lineup from Los Angeles, but just when the sons of Silicon Valley looked to be dead in the water, the Sharks experienced an awakening of epic proportions. A frantic comeback led to San Jose’s second overtime win of this series, reminding heart-stricken Kings fans of the most agonizing experience in the history of their franchise.
The most wrenching series loss the Los Angeles Kings have ever suffered occurred in the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, when the Montreal Canadiens won three straight overtime games en route to a 4-1 series triumph. So far in this opening-round playoff series, the Kings have scored more overall goals, but the Sharks have won two sudden-death heartstoppers. The fact that Los Angeles once owned complete control of Game 3 will make it very hard for this youthful and inexperienced underdog to overtake the Sharks as this series continues.
Early on in this pivotal game it seemed as though the Kings were going to win easily. They built a four goal lead and didn’t break much of a sweat in the process. The Kings scored two goals three minutes into the first period and they were separated by a mere 13 seconds. The first goal of the contest was scored by Willie Mitchell just 2:26 minutes into the game. Then, just seconds later, Kyle Clifford put one past San Jose starting netminder Antti Niemi, who looked distracted and listless from the word go.
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The Kings finished off the first period with a goal at the 18:22 mark by Michal Handzus. The offensive onslaught by the Kings continued just 44 seconds into the second period when Brad Richardson scored on a relatively weak shot, and Niemi was necessarily pulled by coach Todd McLellan for Antero Nittymaki.
Then came the comeback that will be firmly planted in the nightmares of the Kings hockey community – players, coaches, executives and fans – for the summer.
The Sharks responded with three straight goals and narrowed the Kings’ lead to one, at 4-3. The Sharks’ first goal of the night was netted by Patrick Marleau at the 3:08 mark of the second period on a shanked shot. Then Ryane Clowe scored a goal on the man advantage at the 6:53 mark and Logan Couture added the third straight goal for San Jose at the 13:32 mark. The Kings simply failed to check the Sharks or contest loose pucks in the corners. The Sharks were able to cycle the puck behind the net and move freely in the L.A. zone.
The Kings responded just 15 seconds after the Couture goal on a score by Ryan Smyth at the 13:47 mark. When L.A. immediately re-established a two-goal lead at 5-3, there was once again a sense that the Kings would outpace the Sharks for the duration; the bleeding had been stopped.
That’s what made the end of the second period even more stunning. San Jose answered with two straight goals, sending the game tied heading into the third period all knotted up 5. First, Clowe scored his second goal of the game at 18:35 of the period. That was bad enough, but then the Kings couldn’t even protect what remained of their lead before the second intermission. Yes, just 54 seconds after the Clowe goal, with just 31 seconds left in the period, Joe Pavelski scored to put the game on even terms.
For all the scoring that happened in the first two periods no one could take the lead in the third, but San Jose had earned the chance to win the game with just one strike. In the series’ second overtime clash, Setoguchi ended the game with a deft shot on a feed from Patrick Marleau and completed an amazing comeback or – for the shellshocked Kings – a massive choke job that could linger well into an offseason that is approaching very quickly.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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