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They had to go to a shootout to do it, but the San Jose Sharks kept themselves at the top of the Pacific Division on Friday night with a big win over the rival Los Angeles Kings. After the Sharks' first three shooters failed to notch one in the shootout, it was Ryane Clowe who made a brilliant move to push the puck past Jonathan Quick, and after Mike Richards was denied on the following shot, San Jose walked out of the HP Pavilion with a 2-1 victory and two points.
Logan Couture had an exceptionally good game for the Sharks. Aside from scoring the only goal for them in regulation, Couture was brilliant on the penalty kill, at one point playing keep away from three or four Kings players to kill time off the clock. The aforementioned Richards would be the one to tie things for the Kings, but his heroics stopped there, unable to keep the shootout alive. His goal came on the power play late in the second period, where both regulation goals happened.
Antti Niemi was fantastic, but then again, so was Quick. Niemi was better in the shootout (or perhaps Clowe was better than Richards), and that's what's going to matter. Niemi stopped 28 of 29, while Quick stopped 34 of 35. It's almost a miracle that the game got to overtime, as San Jose put a ton of pressure on Quick late in the third period, out-shooting Los Angeles 14-9 in that frame.
Still, the Kings have been played good hockey over the past week, so letting them escape with a point (currently fourth in the Pacific Division) is something San Jose wanted to avoid. Outside of the lowly Anaheim Ducks, every team is still "in it" in regards to the division, so the point could end up being significant.
But for right now, San Jose holds the load in the division with 41 points, although they share it with the Dallas Stars. San Jose has played two games less than Dallas though. Still, at this point, only four points separates the division lead from the fourth-place Kings. Smart money is on the Sharks though, who are now winners in all of their last four games, and have two more games left in a six-game homestand.
They'll next host the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 26.
The San Jose Sharks have put themselves in a great position, and in a big way. On Wednesday, they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-2, and on top of their offensive brilliance, climbed to the top of the Pacific Division. Of course, they share the division lead with two other teams, all of the three having 39 points, but the Sharks have played two games less than the Dallas Stars and three fewer games than the Phoenix Coyotes.
Despite being hit with the injury bug, most notably to offseason acquisition Martin Havlat, the Sharks did well without him in their last outing. Of significance is the fact that his replacement, Benn Ferriero, scored the first goal and set up the offensive onslaught against the Lightning just over three minutes into the first period on Wednesday. They're also getting strong play from goalie Antti Niemi, who is 9-2-0 over his last 11 starts at HP Pavilion.
They're up against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, a team who has been incredibly inconsistent this season, but has still won enough to keep competitive. They're third in the Pacific Division, but only trail by a couple points, and can make big strides with a win over the Sharks on Friday. The game is coming just a day after the Kings beat the fellow rival Anaheim Ducks, winning 3-2 in the shootout.
It's Los Angeles' second-straight win, and they should be confident at this point, especially due to the fact that the teams split the first two meetings this season. It will be interesting to see if the Kings are at all tired out by the consecutive games, and it could be even more significant due to their offensive struggles this season. The name of the game for San Jose will be to put points up early on - if the Kings fall behind it's unlikely they'll be able to mount a comeback, from many different perspectives. For one, there's the potential fatigue, and for two, they're one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league.
The game is set for 7:30 p.m. pacific on Friday, and can be seen on CSN California.
On Wednesday, the San Jose Sharks moved into first place in the Pacific Division - and released a whole lot of frustration. If not frustration, then there was some sort of other chip on their shoulders, as the team unleashed an onslaught of offensive production on the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the end walking away with a 7-2 victory.
Tampa Bay was hoping to resolve some goalie issues with Mathieu Garon making his fifth-straight start, but they didn't get anywhere on that front, as Garon was pulled after surrendering four goals in the first period. Dwayne Roloson also surrendered one in the first, and then went on to give up two more after that first frame. Those five goals in the first period were a franchise record for San Jose, and was the fastest amount of time they'd ever scored five goals in a regular season game. Those seven goals are the highest of the season for them, too.
Ben Ferriero got the scoring started, taking a pass from Joe Thornton behind the next just three minutes into the game and putting it in the net. Ferriero was in the lineup for the injured Martin Havlat, and production from him was exactly what San Jose wanted to see on Wednesday. Joe Pavelski then would score on the power play. Andrew Desjardins lit the lamp next, followed by two goals from Logan Couture, who really wanted a hat trick.
Technically, San Jose shares the lead in the Pacific division with both the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes, all three teams have 39 points. San Jose, though, has played two games less than the Stars, and three fewer than the Coyotes. Next, they've got the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
Havlat suffered the freak injury last Saturday coming off the bench in a 3-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers, and will have to wait and see how it heals up before a time table is made for his return. General manager Doug Wilson spoke about the injury at a Wednesday press conference:
"The good news," Wilson said, is that the injury is "not as as bad as the team initially thought."
Team doctors feel that Havlat will be able to make a full recovery before the last stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
Havlat, 30, has 15 points for San Jose this season with two goals and 13 assists.
For more on the Sharks, head over to Fear the Fin.
The San Jose Sharks are trailing only slightly in the Pacific Division are playing through what is considered a particularly easy part of their schedule. They've got upcoming games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. For more on the Sharks, check out Fear The Fin.