Kings Fight Until Bitter End
With one swing of the stick from Joe Thornton 2:22 in overtime the Kings’ season was done. The San Jose Sharks ousted the Kings 4-3 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games.
“It’s disappointing,” goaltender Jonathan Quick said. “This is not how we wanted it to end obviously.”
It all turned after the Sharks killed a five-minute penalty of which 1:37 bled into overtime.
“Sure enough as soon as our power-play was over, they scored,” defenseman Jack Johnson said.
“That’s a critical moment in the game,” head coach Terry Murray echoed. “That’s a missed opportunity.”
And that is sad since the Kings capitalized on their other two power-play opportunities both used to tie the game: Justin Williams at 13:27 in the second period to tie the game 1-1 and Trevor Lewis at 11:39 in the third period to tie the game 3-3. But with the loss looming over everyone’s heads there really wasn’t time to smile on it.
“It’s hard to move to that when you just finished talking about the power-play at the end of regulation and going into overtime that you don’t capitalize on to take it to a Game 7,” Murray said. “We’re happy about what we did, but at the end of the day this is still the critical point of the game.”
At the start of the game it looked highly unlikely that the Kings would be able to survive into the third period much less than overtime. Outshot by a 16-5 margin, turning the puck over like it was going out of style, even Murray had to call a timeout early on to help stop the bleeding.
“I called a timeout midway in the first period because we probably had 15 turnovers to that point,” Murray said. “The difference was our own play with managing the puck. That goes back to the losses we had in this series.”
But Murray credited the Sharks for their desire to close the series out in Game Six.
“San Jose came out and played as good a hockey game they’ve played all year long,” Murray said although he added a disclaimer that he hadn’t seen every Shark’s game. “They played a real intense tempo game to start the game off.”
San Jose’s head coach Todd McLellan agreed.
“I thought our start tonight was exactly what we needed. We needed that for the goaltender so that he could feel comfortable.”
Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi should have felt comfortable in the first 20 minutes with most of the play in the Kings’ zone. But the Kings overcame that in the second period.
“We responded,” Murray said. “Quick was good. We got things settled down. We came back playing better in the second, better in the third, and you end up getting to an overtime.”
The only real breakdown that cost the Kings was the weak-side goal by Jason Demers at 16:52 in the second period as he was alone in the right wing of the Kings’ zone.
But that five minute power-play. Once the Sharks killed it off, the puck started bouncing for them.
“The puck kind of popped out, and I was just in front of the net, grabbed it and put it in the open net,” Sharks’ hero Thornton said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
So for the second straight season the Kings bow out just six games into the postseason. And with that Thornton swing, the NHL season in Southern California is over. As disappointing as it is amongst everyone in the Kings’ organization, Murray is pretty optimistic.
“I look at it as a very good year, a very successful year. We’ve grown a lot, we’ve matured, the culture is really pushing along the right way.”
But there’s no erasing the disappointment in the players.
“Regardless of what everyone thought of this team going into the playoffs, we believed in this room we could do something good,” captain Dustin Brown said. “Anytime the season ends and you’re not the winning team, it’s a disappointment for every guy in here.”