Game 3 in San Jose was a pivotal affair between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. A win in front of their hometown crowd would give the Sharks a stranglehold on the series, going up three games to none. However, a victory for the Kings would breathe fresh life into a team who has struggled to look like themselves in the first two tilts of the series.
While most would have expected the Kings to come out ready to fight, knowing what was on the line, the team fell flat early, allowing Joe Thornton to open the scoring just 30 seconds after the initial puck drop. A complete defensive meltdown saw Thornton with control of the puck in the slot, and the center was able to beat goalie Jonathan Quick as he was caught sliding the wrong direction.
Showing the resilience of a team who was won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, the Kings never gave up, finally settling into the game midway through the first. It was around this time that captain and star forward Anze Kopitar made his first big impact in the series, tying the game up with a powerplay goal off of a tremendous feed from Milan Lucic.
Both teams battled hard and fought for their ice all night, though neither team was able to find the back of the net again during regulation.
After 60 hard fought minutes, overtime was necessary to determine a winner. And there, Tanner Pearson’s best shift of the night led to the young forward potting a game-winner past his former Manchester Monarchs teammate Martin Jones. Both Pearson and Kings captain Dustin Brown laid big hits back-to-back at the Sharks blueline, forcing a turnover and allowing Pearson to come in on an 0dd-man rush, where Pearson opted to shoot, scoring five-hole on Jones.
“I knew Vinny was with me. I just didn’t want to risk forcing a pass across and turning it over, so I just wanted to get it on net,” said Pearson of the game-winner.
It can’t be overstated how important special teams were on Monday night. While the Sharks’ powerplay has been fantastic all series, it struggled on its first few outings in Game 3. On top of that, both the Kings’ powerplay and penalty kill were terrific, as the PK units battled hard to stave off two terrific Sharks man-advantages late in the third.
“That PK is a staple of this team. We take so much pride in it. To get the job done, that just gives us momentum and lifts our team,” Drew Doughty commented after the game.
Game 4 will be Wednesday night in San Jose, and you have to wonder how both teams will reply. Will San Jose show the resilience needed of a possible Stanley Cup winning team and be able to brush off a tough loss at home and bounce back in Game 4? Was this the spark the Kings needed to get them back to playing Kings hockey? Only time will tell.