Joe Pavelski scored the overtime winner with 5:19 left in the first extra frame to help the San Jose Sharks take game one over Los Angeles 3-2 on Thursday night.
The two of three California representatives battled with bodies, sticks and goalies in a hard-fought opening to the series.
Sharks’ rookie Logan Couture scored his first career playoff goal and forward Ryan Clowe had three assists in the victory.
For the Kings (0-1) Justin Williams notched a goal and an assist in his first game back after missing the final nine regular season games. Captain Dustin Brown also scored in the losing effort.
Dany Heatley opened the scoring for San Jose on the game’s first shift.
The two young goaltenders featured in the series, Jonathan Quick for the Kings and Antti Niemi for the Sharks, stole the show in the third period and overtime. Quick stopped 42 shots in the loss while Niemi stopped 33 to maintain home-ice advantage.
It didn’t take long for the Sharks to bite the underdog Kings. After breaking up a play in the defensive zone, Heatley made his way up the ice and scored his 13th career playoff goal off a Clowe rebound just 28 seconds into the game.
San Jose (1-0) continued to pound Los Angeles in all areas of the ice. The Kings offence clearly struggled without injured-star Anze Kopitar, especially on the powerplay, where they failed to record any shots on two man advantages in the first period.
The Sharks came inches from increasing their lead with less than five minutes to play. Forward Devon Setogouchi’s wrist shot from between the circles squeaked through the arm of Quick and landed just outside the crease, only to have the rebound chance blocked by the extended skate of Drew Doughty.
After wingers Ben Eager and Kyle Clifford decided to drop the gloves, Eager taking the clear decision, the Kings stumbled into the intermission outshot 14-3 and down 1-0.
San Jose began the second period with only five defensemen. Ian White was escorted off the ice late in the first after being hit from behind into the boards by Jarret Stoll. White was slow to get up and suffered a laceration on his lip. No penalty was called on the play.
However, as the Kings struggled to get into any sort of rhythm, it was the Sharks’ forwards doing most of the work. Quick scrambled to stop a flurry of chances that brought the shot totals in the frame to 4-0 and 18-3 in the game.
The offensive-driven Sharks continued to pester Quick even on the penalty kill. But taking risks came back to burn San Jose as the Kings capitalized on a 3-on-1 rush immediately following a shorthanded opportunity. A shot wide by Couture rattled around the boards and resulted in the odd-man chance finished off by Brown with a one-timer from Justin Williams at 7:25 of the second.
San Jose’s guns weren’t deterred by one costly error. Just three minutes later, Couture received a pass in the neutral zone from Clowe, flew past his boyhood friend Doughty and scored five-hole to restore the one-goal lead.
Taking a more physical approach to the game began to open up some space for the Kings in the neutral zone. Despite the low number of shots, they began to push the puck deep into the corners and create chances using their bodies.
Hard work paid off and a scramble behind the net resulted in a Williams’ backhand to tie the game at two. The goal was his first tally since scoring an empty netter in game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup final, sealing the deal for the Carolina Hurricanes over the Edmonton Oilers 3-1.
A strong second period from Williams made the Kings look like the little train that could. With shot totals at a more respectable 23-18 in favour of San Jose, the game was deadlocked at two heading into the third.
Los Angeles carried over the energy and momentum it picked up at the end of the second and took control of the game. The forwards stepped into a more shot-first mentality and the defence appeared composed and comfortable.
While the Sharks maintained a high tempo, they failed to record a single shot through the first half of the frame.
Once they did hit the net, with around seven minutes left, the see-saw affair took another turn and the Sharks bombarded the Kings defence and Quick with a barrage of shots from the point and the top of the crease.
The young goaltender stood his ground amidst the Sharks’ late surge and a Doughty tripping penalty with 2:11 left to send the game to overtime.
Quick continued to make life difficult for the Sharks in the first overtime and his counterpart 200 feet down the ice didn’t miss a beat. As both teams resorted to a net-crashing strategy, both Quick and Niemi stood on their heads trying to escape from game one with their heads held high.
Overtime could’ve have been much shorter if not for the efforts of the goalies. Receiving a cross-crease pass on the tape of his stick, Joe Thornton was robbed by a sliding Quick coming from right to left in order to cover the bottom half of the net.
San Jose’s Stanley Cup winning goalie was up to the challenge as well. Coming across his net to play a Ryan Smyth shot, a deflection off the stick of Dan Boyle forced Niemi to react with his left pad to keep the game alive.
The geographical foes continued to battle back and forth, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the opposing net minders. A giveaway in the offensive zone by the Kings turned out to be the difference.
On a 3-on-2 rush immediately after gaining possession, Kyle Wellwood fed the puck to a trailing Pavelski, who blew a wrist shot past Quick for the 3-2 victory.