The 2013 season of the San Jose Sharks came to an end Tuesday, May 28, at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
It was an epic ending to what had already been an epic Western Conference semifinals series between two Pacific Division rivals. Not since the 2008 second-round game against another rival, the Dallas Stars, have the Sharks looked so noble in defeat. The game was entertaining and intense enough from both sides to rate it highly even in a loss.
It was the two best goalies left in the Stanley Cup playoffs rising to the challenge of matching the other. After Jonathan Quick won this battle, it is hard to see anyone beating him enough times to take four games from the Kings.
That may explain why NBC Sports Network analyst Keith Jones, in an apparent attempt to stress his point of great defensive teams with great goalies putting scoring at a premium in this game, predicted the Sharks would win 1-0 in quadruple overtime. That would have made it the second-longest since the quintuple-overtime win he was part of with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000. That was the longest since 1936, before which two games went scoreless into the sixth overtime in four Stanley Cup playoffs.
Through the first period, it looked like Jones might be right. There were an NHL 2013 postseason-low eight shots fired between the two teams.
This is not to say it was a game of keep-away. For those that do not follow the Pacific Division because of the late nature of the games, these teams simply play great defense in front of great goalies to control rebounds.
The Sharks dominated in the circle but had to block eight shots to just three allowed on goal because the Kings were hitting everything in sight to regain possession. Each team had a prime scoring chance among those shots that was turned away by a goalie on top of his game.
The second period has been a problem for San Jose all season, and it was then Los Angeles took over. After not having a shot over almost 15 minutes of the first, the power play took the ice at 2:46 of the second period. With about 30 seconds remaining before Brent Burns would be done serving his interference, Justin Williams pounded a puck through Antti Niemi’s right pad. It fell just before Justin Braun could clear it.
It was the only power play goal of the game, as the Kings stayed out of the box, with only two penalties. They came on their other two power plays, meaning they were actually shorthanded for just 1:38 all game.
The Kings seized the momentum, landing three more shots on goal over the next 81 seconds. The Sharks fought back, eventually landing two quality shots on Quick. He not only turned them away, but the second led to a breakout. Williams took a beautiful cross-ice feed from Anze Kopitar and shot it through the narrowest of margins between the post and Niemi’s sprawling right pad.
Game over. Scoring on Quick twice in a game is hard enough. Doing it in under 33 minutes is impossible. That is why the Kings are unbeaten in the postseason when scoring at least two goals.
The Sharks increased pressure, pinching and slowly regaining their footing. By the third period, they dominated. The only shot that successfully screened Quick wound up giving Dan Boyle a goal in the sixth minute, but even rebound shots were no match for the 2012 Conn Smythe winner for most valuable player during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With his performance against two great Western Conference contenders, he should be the front-runner for this year’s award.
When it was all said and done, the Sharks held an edge of 26-18 in shots, 55-41 in attempts, 30-25 in the circle and were even two in the black on turnovers (15-18 giveaways, 5-6 takeaways). The Kings only held an edge of nine hits (39-30), but had five more blocked shots because they had four in the final 88 seconds with Niemi on the bench.
San Jose went down swinging as the better team. Los Angeles are going to the Western Conference finals because of the performances of three players:
- Quick stopped everything he saw—25 of 26 shots is a .962 save percentage. He gave up a total of one goal in three of his four home playoff games.
- Williams was the man most responsible for the only two goals the Kings scored. He had five of his six shot attempts on goal and added one hit, block, takeaway and giveaway.
- Kopitar had the great pass to score what became the game-winning goal, but Slava Voynov was in on both scores. Even though none of his five attempts made it on net, he created chances—his miss became the first goal by Williams, and his drop-pass in the zone set up the final goal. He also registered one hit, block and giveaway.