Pavelski delivers again for Sharks
Joe Pavelski is the San Jose Sharks' third-line center, but that doesn’t mean he’s not the same caliber as a top-six forward. He finished the regular season third on the team with 66 points, behind only Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. He plays on the No. 1 power-play unit and helps kill penalties.
Thursday night, Pavelski came through in the clutch, beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a wicked wrist shot to the top corner of the net at 14:44 of overtime as San Jose topped LA 3-2 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Pavelski, 26, now has three postseason OT goals in his short career. With his huge contributions to Team USA's Olympic run last year and a strong performance in last year's playoffs, Pavelski is no longer a stranger to the spotlight.
"Pavs is a tremendous player for us," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "We count on him in so many situations. He scores huge goals for us."
Pavelski's game-winning goal, which was set up by Sharks forwards Ryane Clowe (who assisted on all three San Jose tallies) and Kyle Wellwood, came on a play the Sharks employed time and time again earlier in the game.
"We had five or six of those opportunities tonight," said Clowe, referring to the play where one skater drives toward the net and opens up a lane on the wide side for a late attacker to jump up in the play.
Pavelski’s presence is one of the main reasons this series should be a short one.
Granted, the Kings were a bounce away from stealing the opener, but there was a noticeable difference between the two sides. While Los Angeles had the momentum in the second period and parts of the third, the Kings' level of play didn't come close to San Jose's when the momentum tilted toward the Sharks.
The Kings tested Sharks netminder Antti Niemi, who came up with a handful of impressive saves, but neither of LA's two goals came as a result of sustained efforts.
After Dany Heatley opened the scoring for the Sharks 28 seconds into the game, Dustin Brown got the equalizer in the second period on a power-play goal — a brilliant one-timer that Niemi had no chance to stop. It came on a 3-on-1 break after a missed shot at the other end and the Sharks’ penalty killers trapped deep.
Later in the second, the Kings once again came back from down a goal, but this time Justin Williams benefited from a fortuitous bounce. A wild carom behind the Sharks net kicked free to the Kings forward, who slid it into the empty side of the net as Niemi had been guarding the opposite post. Goals don't come much easier than that one, especially in the playoffs.
The Kings outshot the Sharks 16-9 in the second period. Even with Sharks star rookie Logan Couture regaining the lead quickly after Brown's power-play goal, the Kings put together a brilliant period overall.
Not only did they make that lone power-play opportunity count — something they will have to continue to do if they are to have any chance of winning this series — but they capitalized on 5-on-5 situations when the Sharks were on their heels.
That’s exactly what the Kings are going to have to do. With top scorer Anze Kopitar out for the season with an ankle injury, the Kings have to make their chances count, especially against a high-scoring team in San Jose.
"They played excellent tonight," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of the Kings.
San Jose, however, can be better. The Sharks certainly were not excellent for a large portion of the game. Most of their poor play was self-inflicted.
"We made it a little difficult on ourselves," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said of the lapse in play during the second and third periods.
Both teams showed the best they can offer, but when the Sharks were playing their best hockey they were dominating puck possession, leaving little chance for the Kings to create opportunities of their own.
Had the Kings stolen the opener, it would have given them a huge boost in their attempt to upset the Sharks, but with the loss, the future of the Kings in this postseason doesn't look good.