Game 48: Kings Win 3-2, improve to 27-16-5
LOS ANGELES – Despite having playoff implications for tonight’s game, the regular season finale didn’t stir up as much excitement as one would think. In fact, the Staples Center faithful was quieter than usual. Of course in their defense, the Los Angeles Kings and their fans just wanted to get the regular season over with so they could rightfully begin defense of their Stanley Cup crown regardless who they played. Of course, the San Jose Sharksare also quite eager to get the postseason underway themselves.
The opening period was a very even affair. While neither team was able to score, both teams registered eight shots each in the first 20 minutes. In the second, the Kings wasted no time getting to work as Kyle Clifford opened the scoring just 48 seconds into the frame. After a shot by Anze Kopitar bewildered Sharks netminder Antti Niemi, the puck dangled in the air before falling in the crease where the Big Red Dog was quick to bat it in. The goal livened up Staples Center. However, just like that, the energy was sucked out again.
Just 49 seconds, San Jose’s Logan Couture found his way past three Kings defenders and shot it under Jonathan Quick to tie the game. The goal was Couture’s 21st of the season. But just four minutes later, the Kings were determined to regain their lead and they did as Slava Voynov slapped a point shot that found its way through past Niemi to put Los Angeles back out in front.
After San Jose’s Andrew Desjardins was called off at 5:31 of the third for the game’s only penalty, both teams returned to even strength and with exactly eight minutes to go in the third, Justin Williams took a nice behind-the-net feed from Brad Richardson to pot his 11th into the back of the net to give the Kings some insurance.
The Sharks, though, failed to go down without a fight and TJ Galiardi wristed his fifth past Quick with only 2:27 to go to pull his team to within a goal. It got interesting in the waning minutes but that was all the offense the Sharks could muster as the Kings hang on for the 3-2 win, finishing the abbreviated season fifth in the West, second in the Pacific and with an overall record of 27-16-5 which includes a third-best home record of 19-4-1.
While Justin Williams had a goal and an assist, Brad Richardson had a slightly more impressive night with two assists and a team-best +2 rating tonight. Jonathan Quick was also good when he had to be, stopping 23 of 25 shots he faced. Not bad for a final tune-up before the playoffs. But if tonight’s result is any indication, they are entering the playoffs with just the right amount of momentum – and will prepare to take on the St. Louis Blues.
Earlier this evening, the Blues were hosting the Chicago Blackhawks. Having lead both the Kings and Sharks by a point in the standings, St. Louis just needed a win to clinch the West’s 4th-seed and after defeating Chicago 3-1, they did just that. So, entering tonight’s contest as Staples Center, the math was simple: the winner would face fourth-seeded St. Louis and the loser would face the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks. The Kings win means a trip to the Gateway City while the Sharks will travel north to take on the Canucks.
It was a drama-filled fall where fans everywhere wondered about (and even doubted) the possibility of an NHL season in 2013. The season was salvaged, 48-game schedules were put together and now the regular season is over with the playoffs set to start in just a few days.
For the Los Angeles KIngs, their championship defense begins on either Tuesday or Wednesday – and they will be entering the big dance not longer as the hunter but as the hunted. It should be exciting.