What do you open up the day after Christmas? Well, if you’re the Los Angeles Kings the answer is your power play
The Kings played host to their rivals from Northern California, the San Jose Sharks on Monday, December 26th at Staple Center, treating a near capacity crowd of 18,118 to a 4-3 Kings victory in a game that featured nine King power play opportunities. Five of the seven goals scored in the game all came via the power play.
The Kings entered the game with one of the least effective power play units in the NHL, ranked 27th overall. On this night, however, the Kings power play was anything but impotent. The puck movement was crisp and timely, forcing the Shark defenders to scramble out of position on many occasions. The Sharks, who rarely find themselves having to kill penalties, averaging just over 12 minutes in penalties per game, finished this game with 23 penalty minutes.
The game’s first goal came on a power play late in the 1st period when King sparkplug Michael Cammalleri scored his fifth goal in five games, deflecting a long slap shot by defenseman Mattias Nordstrom.
The Sharks evened the score in the 2nd period on rookie right winger Milan Michalek’s fifth goal of the year, who beat Kings goalie Mathieu Garon from a tough angle. But the Kings answered only a few minutes later with their second power play goal, a one-timer from the blue line by defenseman LubomJoe Corvo. Pavol Demitra and ir Visnovsky were credited with the assists.
The Kings began the 3rd period with yet another power play, this time a two-man advantage which included a Sharks bench minor for arguing with the referees. And the Kings wasted no time scoring their third power play goal of the evening as Center Craig Conroy slipped the puck past Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nobokov, also from a tricky angle left of the net. Demitra and Visnovsky each got their second assists of the night on Conroy’s goal.
The Kings took their largest lead of the night a few minutes later when Sean Avery scored their only even-strength goal on a wrist shot by the Kings feisty Center, his eighth of the season. But the Sharks never stopped grinding and, for the most part, dictated the pace of the game for the rest of the period. Sharp-shooting winger Jonathon Cheechoo scored on a power play of their own at the 7:30 mark, and again with just over eight minutes left in the game. For Cheechoo, those were his 17th and 18th goals of the season.
The Sharks continued to drive for the game-tying goal. Newly acquired winger Scott Thornton was a constant force and presence around the King’s net. Very few teams possess a winger who brings the physical attributes and offensive prowess that Thornton adds to the Sharks, and it was a struggle for Kings defensemen to knock him off the puck in their own zone.
The Sharks pulled Nabokov out of the nets and mounted a final offensive rush with roughly one minute left. After several near misses and some sprawling saves by Garon, the buzzer sounded and the Kings managed to secure the 4-3 win. For Garon, it was his 15th win of the season.