Kyle Clifford exploded for two goals, and with his second Antti Niemi was Finnished. Between goals, the Big Red Dog took on Shark/Tank Douglas Murray in a scrap that was more valiant than violent, battling against a 26-pound weight advantage to a no-knockout draw. Clifford did score the takedown, out-wrestling the top-heavy human-pallet-of-bricks Murray, but the points in this fight were scored by Clifford just skating into the ring.
Incredibly, Clifford’s accomplishments were despite his getting the fewest minutes of ice time for any player in this game from either team except Ryan Clowe, who left the game
in disgrace because he is a piece of injured.
Tyler Toffoli made his NHL debut, registering one shot but at least two quality chances, and covered his defensive responsibilities well. At RW, with Carter centering Richards on the LW, Toffoli showed speed and hockey sense at both ends of the ice, while also not faltering in the corners at either end. I like to call this line the Double Tap line, because it has two quick shots and the guy with the Intel. The line did not score, and there were some chemistry issues on offsides and unexpected passes, but positionally the kid fit right in.
This is a good-looking X Ray; lots of blues and a red.
The game had very little penalties, and only 3 Power Plays, 2 for the Sharks and 1 for the Kings. That offers two facts we are getting used to: the Kings get less Power Plays than the opposition, and the PK gets scored on. 17th going into the game, our ailing PK is now at 20th best, suffering from severe screenitis and shot-throughcia. The prescription would be “take two Greenes and call me in the morning” but that drug is on bad back order.
The Kings outshot the Sharks 12-5 in the 1st, and Clifford scored his first goal early at just 2:27 in. This was only the 12th time in 27 games the Kings scored first, and it was a good sign to see them getting off to a quick start.
Speaking of Quick starts… Bernier’s start was no surprise, as Quick struggled to see the puck and therefore stop it against the Sharks 2 nights ago. Temporarily, at least, the roles are now reversed, as sitting Bernier to start Quick would be the surprise against the next opponent, Phoenix.
In a game that saw San Jose adjust their lines and defensive pairs incessantly, Sutter kept his intact, as he had done during the previous loss to the Sharks. Sutter did vary from his norm, however, in that he engaged in line-matching. Sutter usually concentrates on getting the preferred defensive pair out against a particular line, but in this game he invariably put Stoll out against Thornton, no matter who Thornton was playing with at the time.
Sutter’s usual line log of 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 with a 1-2-3 at mid-period plus a set of 1-2-3, 1-2-3 to end a period, was scrambled. Evidenced by the X Ray when compared to Stoll’s season average, Stoll got 20:03 in ice time tonight including much less specialty teams work than usual, against his average for the season of 16:13. Stoll battled Thornton successfully, scoring a goal and coming out a plus 2 to Thornton’s even.
Stoll’s goal, or “The Stoal,” ended a portion of time during which this game was close and the outcome was hanging in the balance. At 2-1, Bernier had just stopped a Penalty Shot against Tommy Wingels (who seems destined to own a fast food franchise post-hockey) at 7:58 into the 2nd period. Bernier: “…I tried to give him a little bit of glove, and wanted him to shoot where I wanted, and he did…It goes either way.” And so could the game.
After Bernier stopped Wingels at 12:02, San Jose iced Marleau/Gomez/Desjardins and Sutter countered with Brown/Kopi/Williams. San Jose changed the Handzus line while Kopi’s stayed out for 30 seconds of O-zone time and a post-ding by Muzzin. When McLellan saw Sutter put Clifford/Fraser/Penner out for a shift, he countered with Pavelski /Thornton/Burns. Mclellan probably thought he had the advantage, and he did as Pavelski earned an open grade-a chance from the left side at 12 feet. Pavelski’s shot rang off the post, having gotten by Bernier’s blocker.
After Pavelski’s near-goal, the teams iced King/Stoll/Lewis against the line of Marleau/Gomez/Desjardins. Extended possession in the Kings zone gave McLellan the opportunity, since in the 2nd period his bench is closerst to the attacking zone, to get Thornton out there again facing Stoll’s line. McLellan must have thought Stoll would be gassed, to Thornton’s advantage, but instead the Kings regained the puck and took it to the Sharks. It looked like the Kings would be happy with a face-off in the Sharks zone, but Leiws took a crafty shot as Stoll rush-screened Niemi, and Lewis’ shot hit Stoll’s leg, caromed right to his stick, and Stoll’s momentum carried him past the goaltender for a 5-hole shot that went in. Stoal!!!!
It isn’t often that King, Stoll and Lewis all get more ice time than Kopitar, but they did. The top 4 in ice time were Stoll, Lewis, Brown and King, in that order, and it proved to be the Sharks undoing.
Bernier came up with the crucial saves, and although the teams traded posts between the Penalty shot attempt and the Stoal, this was really the only portion of the game where play was fairly even. The line changes worked, the goalie change worked, and the Kings players worked, too, much harder than the Sharks.
Who says the Kings can’t finish? They finished the Finnish, and they finished the Fin-ish.