The Kings went into their last home game of the season vs. San Jose before a sell out crowd of 18,330 in a playoff style atmosphere. Right before the start of the game, both teams learned that they both qualified for the playoffs since Dallas lost to Nashville. The first of a home and home against the Sharks to end the season was very exciting and intense for these rival teams. LA came out on fire dominating play in the first period but the score didn’t indicate that as it was 1-1. LA started the scoring with Alec Martinez beating Anti Niemi off a rebound shot from Dustin Brown on the power play.
Joe Thornton got an extra minor after his fight with Drew Doughty that he clearly had the edge in but the Kings got the last laugh when they scored. Jason Demers tied it up after a scramble for the puck to beat Jonathan Quick who came into the game with a 1.89 goals against average and in the hunt with Henrik Lunquist of the Rangers for the Vezina trophy for top goaltender this season.
Period two started off hot again and Jarret Stoll, who is having a career low scoring season, tallied his 6th of the year after Niemi couldn’t control the puck while many players tried to clear it. Soon after, Dustin Brown wristed one by Niemi off a beautiful drop pass from Kopitar to make it 3-1. Kopitar is one of the best in the league at controlling the puck and keeping opposing players away with his long reach and skills. Malkin from the Penguins may be the best with his big body but Kopitar is not too far behind. This was all after the Kings killed off a 5 minute boarding penalty by Kyle Clifford. LA looked like it was building momentum for the 3rd and crucial period until Quick took a careless interference penalty near the end of the period and Joe Thornton tipped in a shot by Dan Boyle to make it 3-2 after two periods.
The 3rd period started with Ryan Clowe tying the game off a deflected pass as he went on a breakaway and beat Quick. Soon thereafter, Justin Williams scored his 20th of the season on a powerplay blasting a slapshot off the post and by Niemi. Rob Scuderi took a delay of game penalty when he cleared the puck in his own zone over the boards and sniper Patrick Marleau made them pay one timing a shot past Quick to make it 4-4 in this rare high scoring matchup.
As this close nit game was winding down, the refs made one of the worst calls I have seen in a long time as one of the Sharks players took a dive with Kopitar defending him. Martin Havlat who is having an off year while being injured after being traded for Dany Heatly scored to put the Sharks up for the first time in the game 5-4. The crowd and home team were visably upset. Two penalties by San Jose gave LA a two-man advantage and Williams scored again to make it 5-5 and that is the way regulation ended.
Overtime was thrilling and nerve-racking as both teams had some great chances to score. Another questionable call late in overtime put Brown in the penalty box and San Jose nearly missed ending the game including Pavelski on a shot with a couple seconds left that just went wide. The refs appeared to have missed another call against San Jose in overtime when Clowe put his stick out when he was on the bench to interrup a Kings rush which is an automatic penalty. A league official confirmed the missed call. Late call penalties unless they are blatant or give a team a scoring opportunity should not be called. So they went to the shootout to gain that one very valuable extra point. Pavelski redeemed himself scoring the only goal to give the Sharks the victory. Saturday night in San Jose will be a doozy for the last game of the season that will decide the seeing and maybe the division title depending on how Phoenix ends their season.
These last 2 games will determine who finishes 3rd, 7th and 8th in the conference between the Kings, Phoenix and San Jose. Finishing third is a huge advantage meaning home ice in the first round vs. a lower seeded team. The Kings have the tie advantage as of now but these final 2 games will be fierce. More info and playoff tickets at www.kings.nhl.com