When the Los Angeles Kings knocked the San Jose Sharks out of the playoffs last season in the second round, five of the seven games were decided by one-goal margins. It was more of the same Wednesday night in the first meeting of the season between the Pacific Division rivals.
Anze Kopitar scored on a power play 2:32 into overtime after setting up Justin Williams’ tying power play goal with 7:39 left in the third period, and the Kings rallied from behind three times to beat the Sharks 4-3. Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll also had goals and Jonathan Quick stopped 17 shots, helping the Kings win for the eighth time in 11 games.
"They have established themselves as the best team in the Western Conference so far this season," Williams said. "We needed a come-from-behind win, and we got it. It took is (62 1-2) minutes, but eventually we got it done. They were hounding the puck at both ends. It was a battle. There was not a free inch of ice out there, it seems. They’re a tough team to play."
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks, who finished the first month of the season 10-1-2 and set a franchise record for wins in October. Antti Niemi made 19 saves in the finale of a 3-2 road trip.
"We would have liked to finish them off and grab the two points," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "I thought we played well and probably deserved better."
Williams got the equalizer on a pass from Kopitar, beating Niemi high to the glove side after the Sharks were assessed their second bench minors of the game for having too many men on the ice.
"When we have the lead we should be able to shut it down," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Penalties are an issue — and too many men on the ice is an issue for me. For it to happen twice to the same line and the same individual is unacceptable If you take those situations out of the game, it was a pretty even game."
Kopitar got the game-winner on a one-timer from the slot on a pass from Doughty, after Sharks defenseman Justin Braun was sent off for hooking Jeff Carter as he carried the puck to the net.
"It’s probably the closest you can get to playoff hockey this time of the year," Kopitar said after the Kings played their third game in four nights. "I thought it was a lot of intensity, a lot of hitting. As usual when we play these guys, whoever wins the special teams usually comes out on top."
A costly turnover by Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell led to the seventh goal of the season by Couture, putting the Sharks ahead 3-2 during at 18:04 of the second. Kyle Clifford was off for goaltender interference when Jason Demers intercepted Mitchell’s attempted clearing pass from behind the net, and Couture finished off a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe play with Demers and Patrick Marleau.
Pavelski gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead at 11:27 of the first, getting a cross-ice pass from Tommy Wingels and beating Quick to the glove side from short range for his fifth goal after Carter overskated the puck about 10 feet inside the Kings’ blueline.
The Kings tied it at 3:15 of the second when Slava Voynov got the puck from Dustin Brown just inside the blueline and took a slap shot along the ice that Stoll redirected past Niemi’s stick. It was the second goal in two games for Stoll, following a 12-game dry spell that was the longest season-opening drought of his career.
Just 13 seconds after winning the opening faceoff from Kopitar, Couture worked the puck away from him along the right boards in the Kings’ zone and set up Vlasic in the slot for a one-timer that beat Quick to the stick side from 30 feet.
It was the fifth time in the Sharks’ first 13 games that they scored during the opening minute, but the lead didn’t last long. Kopitar checked defenseman Matt Irwin off the puck behind the San Jose net and it ricocheted out to Williams, who set up Doughty for a 40-foot wrist shot that beat Niemi through a screen at 2:32.
"The best part for me was the fact they scored a couple seconds in, and we were able to come right back." Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
NOTES: Sutter’s teams are 9-5-6 with one tie in the regular season and 8-5 in the playoffs against the Sharks since they fired him as coach in December 2002. His Calgary Flames beat them in a six-game Western Conference final series in 2004. … The Kings are 6-0 in games ending after regulation. … Kopitar’s goal was his third in overtime during the regular season and first since Dec. 4, 2010 against Detroit. … The Kings are 11-0-1 in the last 12 head-to-head meetings with San Jose at home, including the postseason.