(photo: Dinur Blum)
The well-rested Los Angeles Kings traveled north to play their California rival, the San Jose Sharks, Thursday night. Currently on a losing streak after dropping two on the East Coast, the Sharks hoped to win one at home in their second matchup against the Kings so far this season. In their first meeting, which was the season opener, the Sharks were victorious, 5-1. In this one, the tables have turned. Even though the Sharks had 40 shots on goal, it was Kings’ goalie Jhonas Enroth who kept the score at one. Another standout for the southern California team was Jeff Carter. He scored his first two goals of the season and tallied two assists, to make it a final score of 4-1.
Logan Couture wasn’t on the ice, still injured from the controversial head hit from Dustin Brown in the first game. Due to another, separate incident involving his leg, Couture was put on IR for the next four to six weeks. With Couture out, Matt Nieto was promoted to the line with the Joes: Thornton and Pavelski. The Sharks called up defenseman Mirco Mueller, who was assigned to their affiliate team, the San Jose Barracuda, on October 5 during training camp. Also, as part of their 25th anniversary, the Sharks will be playing host to their alumni throughout the season on select dates. For this matchup, they welcomed Scott Thornton back; his first cousin, Joe Thornton, was in on the ceremonial puck drop.
As expected with these two teams, the energy was high and the hits and scrums were abundant right from the get-go. An example of the hard-hitting happened late in the first, when Thornton was slammed into the boards by Jake Muzzin, and appeared to hit his head, which caused him to leave the game and not return until the second.
Over halfway into the first, Tyler Toffoli scored his fourth goal of the season in a sort of reverse wrap-around, where he had to really reach for the puck behind the net to sneak it by Martin Jones. The Kings ended the first period with a power play goal from Milan Lucic with only 27 seconds left in the period. The Sharks headed to intermission two in the hole.
The Kings continued their scoring drive into the second. Carter notched his first of the season and of the night just a few minutes into the final frame. Finally, the Sharks were able to get past Enroth with a nice sweep from Pavelski from behind the net to Joel Ward, who one-timed it in.
It was apparent at this point that the Sharks would once again be playing make-up hockey in third, something struggled to do all last season. Desperate hockey mode was kicked into full gear after that, with the Sharks getting good looks but not able to beat Enroth. He had been solid the whole night, especially on rebounds. Midway into the final period, Carter scored his second goal and fourth point on the night, to make it 4-1.
Although the Sharks are on a three-game losing streak and wanted nothing more than to beat the Kings on home ice, this game showed that the constant battle and intensity that exists between these two teams will make this season interesting. The two teams are on an even keel for now, but it is sure to be some exciting hockey for the rest of the season.