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.