Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, far right, celebrates his overtime goal as… (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)
Goaltender Jonathan Quick didn't need a video review of the Kings' 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in a riveting opener to their first-round playoff series.
"At the end of the day," he said, "they just got one more than we did."
This matchup of the Kings, who faded to seventh in the West, and the Sharks, who finished atop the Pacific Division and earned the No. 2 seeding, was closer than their regular-season finishes would suggest. They battled fiercely, playing the third period and overtime at a gasp-a-minute pace until the Sharks' depth prevailed.
Third-line center Joe Pavelski, quiet for most of the game, set off a thunderous roar at HP Pavilion when he took a pass from Kyle Wellwood and lifted a shot over Quick 14 minutes and 44 seconds into sudden-death play. Until then, the Kings had matched the Sharks stride for stride and hit for hit, with a courageous Justin Williams setting up the Kings' first goal and scoring the second in his first game back from a dislocated shoulder.
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"You want to be out there come playoff time and you do your best to help the team," said Williams, who wore a protective harness that probably didn't do much to blunt the impact of hits from Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray and others.
Williams inspired his teammates, with the possible exception of winger Dustin Penner. He may be beyond inspiration and was dropped to the fourth line after his poor defensive coverage contributed to San Jose's first goal and his offensive efforts were negligible.
"We did a lot of good things out there. They're a great hockey team," Quick said. "We were one shot away. We had our chances.
"We've got to refocus and get ready. It's in the past at this point. We've got to learn from it and win Game 2."
They might have to do that Saturday without center Jarret Stoll, whose dangerous hit from behind on San Jose defenseman Ian White late in the first period was being analyzed by NHL executives in Toronto and might result in his suspension. White did not return.
"I finished my check and he was right against the boards, right against the glass. He was pretty low," Stoll said. I don't want to see him get hurt. I hope he's OK."
The Kings were reeling after San Jose's first goal, a rebound converted by an unchecked Dany Heatley 28 seconds into the game, but they regrouped to score a power-play goal to pull even at 7:25 of the second period, when Williams found Dustin Brown in the left circle.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead at 10:23, when Logan Couture avoided a hip check from childhood pal Drew Doughty and drove to the net for a shot that slipped between Quick's pads, but the Kings tied it again at 16:20.
Two Sharks went to Ryan Smyth behind the net and left Williams alone to tuck the puck inside the post on his backhand.
"After the first minute, them scoring, it was a nightmare situation," Stoll said. "We got composed. We figured it out. We started moving the puck and getting it in deep and going after them."
Quick thought he had read the play on Pavelski's winner. He anticipated the passer, Wellwood, "was going to drive it down the wall and kind of hold up and wait for him to get an angle for a pass to Pavelski. I got there. He just beat me. He took a pretty good shot. Obviously. I wish I made the save and we could still be playing."
The game ended, but not the Kings' belief they can compete with the Sharks.
"At the start of the game they got exactly what they wanted: an early goal, a lot of momentum and the fans behind them and a lead after the first period," Williams said. "But I thought for the latter part of the second period and the third period we were definitely even if not having the better of the chances.
"In overtime you never know what can happen. But we're not going to get too low off this."