WCQF Game 5: Kings withstand withering assault for 3-1 win, 51-save effort by Jonathan Quick brings series to 3-2

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, April 24, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick 51 saves Stanley Cup Playoffs

San Jose Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe pass

The Sharks are playing an entertaining brand of hockey, but it is not playoff hockey. San Jose allowed 3 first period goals by the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night at HP Pavilion, and for the second time in the last three games starting goaltender Antti Niemi was pulled in favor of Antero Niittymaki. The Sharks waged a whithering comeback attempt over the final 50 minutes of play, but a standout 51-save performance by goaltender Jonathan Quick earned a 3-1 win for Los Angeles and sent the WCQF opening round series back to Southern California.

Prior to the drop of the puck on Saturday night San Jose head coach Todd McLellan noted that his team used an earlier game as motivation. “We were watching Tampa play Pittsburgh this morning. It is a warning to everybody that if you are not prepared to go, you can get blown out of the water.” Facing elimination, the Tampa Bay Lighting dropped the hammer on Pittsburgh 8-2.

Elimination games are the toughest a team will face in a playoff series, but the Sharks had girded themselves since mid-January for a playoff-style atmosphere. With scoring down among the premiere forwards, an emphasis on responsible defensive hockey and a more balanced offensive attack carried the Sharks to a 27-6-4 record over the second half of the season. In 37 games since a 6-game losing streak ended on January 13th, the Sharks allowed an average of 2.32 goals against. That was down from a 2.59 goals against average over the regular season.

In the last 4 games against Los Angeles, the Sharks allowed 3.25 goals against in the first 2 periods alone. Saturday night that came in the form of first period goals from Wayne Simmonds (3:36), Kyle Clifford (7:14) and Dustin Penner (8:42). Simmonds battled hard to earn the first goal, disrupting Niemi from handling the puck on the forecheck. As the Sharks overloaded 4 players to one side, Simmonds made a b-line to the net and finished the business end of a double deflection. The second goal came on an individual play. Dan Boyle tried to beat two players with a move to his backhand. One day after being called out defensively by head coach Terry Murray, Richardson stick checked Boyle to create a turnover. He spun and sparked a 2-on-1 rush up ice with Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. Clifford was originally credited with the first goal of the game, but he earned his mark on the =scoresheet punching home a Simmonds rebound off the pads. The Kings have told the Los Angeles media they are trying to shoot low, and create rebounds off the pads against Niemi.

The third goal against came on a simple bad bounce for San Jose. After an intial backhand attempt to clear the puck out of his own zone under pressure was disrupted by Jarret Stoll, Wallin tried a second pass up the wall to Jamie McGinn. McGinn is a forward with solid offensive instincts, but he used a focus on two-way play to earn 49 starts this season. In the lineup for the first time in place of veteran Ben Eager, the puck bounced off of McGinn’s skate directly to Kevin Wesgarth. Wesgarth slid a pass to Dustin Penner, and Penner scored on a long wrist shot off the glove of Niemi.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan immediately called for Antero Niittymaki to come off the bench. McLellan has stressed that three goals is the benchmark for his team. In the regular season, the Sharks earned a 14-29 record when allowing three or more goals. They registered a 34-5 record when allowing 2 or fewer goals against. Instead of giving Niemi a 4-goal margin like he did prior to Tuesday’s spectacular comeback in LA, McLellan made the switch in time to give his team a better chance to get back into the game. They would have to get past a Kings defense that sagged behind the redline in a third period 1-2-2 in three of the first four contests, and dropped 5 players deep around the net for a “homeplate” in front of Quick on scoring chances down low.

The move to insert Niemi in place of Niittymaki was as much to spark the players on the bench as it was to make a change in goal. “I was going to make a change and I wasn’t going to change 18 other guys, so that left the goalie,” the Sharks coach said. The lineup from top to bottom appeared to take the move personally. To their credit, they didn’t wait until the waning minutes of the third period to do so. The onslaught began immediately with Patrick Marleau cutting into the offensive zone and sparking a Setoguchi rush up the left wing. Instead of taking the puck to the center of the ice, Devin Setoguchi deked defenseman Drew Doughty and took the high percentage route down low for a shot on goal through traffic. Setoguchi continued his foreward momentum and got reversed clotheslined into the goal by 6-foot-4, 245 pounds Dustin Penner. At times in the past, opposing goaltenders could be comfortable in net facing San Jose. Setoguchi has made more contact with goalies in the last two playoff runs than the entire Sharks lineup did in the last three playoff appearances combined.

The Kings killed off a penalty on Dustin Brown for interference, but after it expired the Mitchell-Pavelski- Wellwood line created a quality scoring chance. Wellwood fired a quick shot on net down low, and a pair of Kings bodied up Torrey Mitchell as he battled for a rebound. Pavelski took the puck from the wall to the front of the net, but a mass of sticks and Jonathan Quick smothered his point blank shot. Later in the period after an excellent keep in at the point by Thornton and a tip just wide by Marleau, Dan Boyle dropped a spin-o-rama around Simmonds and flung a quick wrister on goal. Devin Setoguchi battled for the loose puck as time expired. The Sharks finished the first period outshooting LA 19-6.

“(San Jose’s) shots on goal, I liked our attitude in that we had a pretty good home plate,” Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray said after the game. “There was a lot of C shots, what we categorize as C shots from the perimeter. They still count on the shot clock.” Game-to-game momentum is something that has been talked down recently by a number of players and coaches, but in-game momentum shift-to-shift and period-to-period is real. The Sharks carried over their momentum to the second period, and kept the foot on the gas trying to get back in the game.

The second began Logan Couture carrying the puck into the zone and dumping it off the wall. As he tried to jump around the hip check of Jack Johnson, he ran square into an oncoming Dustin Brown. Some players place their bodies against boards when expecting a hit, using momentum and recoil to fling a hitter to the ice. Couture used the Johnson-Brown sandwich in the same fashion. Brown lost his footing but Couture remained on his feet, albeit without the puck.

Board battles were heavy in the second, and in a 4th line against 4th line duel Wesgarth and defenseman Matt Greene each took a shot up high against Jamie McGinn along the wall. McGinn got his retaliation with a shot up high to Wesgarth away from the play on the other side of the ice. As the Kings moved the puck on transition Wesgarth dumped the puck deep and narrowly missed a McGinn elbow up high. Wesgarth finished his shift putting Niclas Wallin through the glass with a hit in the corner. The pane of plexiglass came out of its stanchion but did not break. The Sharks picked up where they left off. A point shot by a defenseman left a rebound in front of Quick with Couture alone in front. Couture ringed a wide open forehand off the post and 10-feet into the air. It was one of a pair of can’t miss opportunities for the Calder finalist, and he uncharacteristically missed both. The second came in the final period after a Richardson turnover led to a quick up pass to a lone Couture in front of the net. A stick check by Quick stopped his second point blank opportunity of the game.

Patrick Marleau finally put the Sharks on the scoreboard at 5:43. After Thornton lifted the stick of Drew Doughty and created a turnover deep in the offensive zone, Thornton dropped a pass for a driving Wallin. From the corner, Wallin quickly sent a hard shot along the goal line with Marleau and Setoguchi each marked in front. Quick guessed far side, but the puck sat to his right and Marleau beat him to it. 3-1 Kings.

The first shift after a goal is important for in-game momentum. The Sharks let in a goal 15 seconds after Couture scored in game 3, and for a few minutes it blunted the comeback effort. Saturday night McLellan threw out his newly constructed 4th line for a critical shift, and they answered the bell. Scott Nichol carried the puck deep and hammered defenseman Alec Martinez on the forecheck. In the other corner Jamal Mayers offered a heavy shoulder to Matt Greene as he played the puck at the wall. At the same time defenseman Douglas Murray knocked Kevin Wesgarth to the ice at the point. With the puck in limbo at Wesgarth’s feet, Murray stepped forward to make a play on the puck. Scott Nichol skated in from center ice to throw his body into the pile like a bowling ball. The puck squirted free up high, and Dustin Penner came in from the neutral zone and carried the puck up ice.

The Sharks came close again later in the second as Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley broke in on a 2-on-2. Clowe feathered a pass through traffic onto the stick of Heatley. Heatley took it to his backhand but was stick checked off the play. The Sharks outshot Los Angeles 15-12 in the second period. According to ESPN’s Gamecast, 9 of the 15 shots including Marleau’s goal came from the faceoff circles in. Several came on the rush, or with traffic in front. Inconsistancy has been a problem for San Jose in the past, but the 2010-11 regular season built up confidence in 60 minute efforts, and the ability to comeback late in games. The comeback from 4-0 on Tuesday only built on that confidence. The Kings sagged back into a 1-2-2 formation behind the red line in three of four previous games. With the same solid defensive core around Quick, the Kings also delivered several late hits after scoring chances in the third.

After a slick between the legs pass by Pavelski set up Kyle Wellwood on the doorstep, Matt Greene launched the Sharks forward to the ice. Wellwood slid up against the endboards like he was coming into home plate. There was no call by referees Tim Peel or Marc Joannette, who were consistent up until that point and let the players decide the game on the ice instead of in the penalty box. Then Kings defenseman Matt Greene had a mini meltdown late in the third. After hitting Mitchell up high at the side of the net on one shift, he got his stick up to the face of the Sharks forward and took a high sticking call on a later shift. San Jose pressured on the man advantage but a lost stick by Setoguchi allowed a clear. After the Kings successful penalty kill, Greene took a second penalty after he cross checked Joe Thornton on the other side of the defensive zone. Thornton created another turnover, and was simultaneously slashed to the leg by Jarret Stoll and cross checked high against the glass by Greene. The Sharks best chance on that man advantage came when Pavelski took two whacks at a puck in front of Couture. He then had his legs levered out from under him from behind by the stick of Willie Mitchell. Demers, Couture and Thornton were also taken down in the offensive zone without a call. Give credit to Los Angeles for realizing what the referees would allow, and for taking advantage of it fully.

Jonathan Quick surpassed his previous career best 42 save performance in game 1 with a 51-save performance on 52 shots for a win in game 5. “All that matters is that we get to play another game. We’re focused on game 6 right now. That’s all we’re worried about,” Quick said. “At times you get lucky and the puck hits you. You find yourself in the right place at the right time. That was the case a few times where it hits your pad instead of going off the post like it was the past couple nights.” Jarret Stoll, suspended for game 2 after a high forearm to the head of Ian White, finished 15-of-17 from the faceoff circle. “I was just feeling it,” he told reporters after the game. “Some games you can’t lose and you are just riding it. You try to get out for as many faceoffs as you can.”

Joe Thornton looked past the performance by Quick, and chose instead to focus on game 6. “We just have to bear down, that is the bottom line,” Thornton said. “We did a good job down in LA with bearing down. Tonight (Quick) was better than our forwards. We have to refocus, go and win game 6 in LA.”

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

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