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Kings take Sharks seriously in 3-2 shootout victory

In a game with playoff-type urgency, Jarret Stoll's shootout goal gives the Kings their third win in a row.

January 26, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Kings center Jarret Stoll scores the winning goal past San Jose goalie Antti Niemi during the Kings' 3-2 shootout victory on Wednesday at Staples Center.
Kings center Jarret Stoll scores the winning goal past San Jose goalie Antti… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

The playoff races don't begin in earnest until the NHL returns from its All-Star break next week. But that didn't stop the Kings from getting a head start on its postseason push Wednesday at Staples Center.

Playing a red-hot San Jose team they need to pass to reach the postseason, the Kings rallied to force overtime, then outlasted the Sharks through four rounds of a shootout to come away with a 3-2 win.

"The position that we are in right now, everything's serious," said center Anze Kopitar, the Kings' lone All-Star selection. "Pretty much every game is important for us. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole here so we've got to gain some ground."

They certainly played with urgency Wednesday, entertaining a sellout crowd throughout a game that had the feel of a postseason matchup.

Jarret Stoll finally won it with a well-placed wrist shot that beat San Jose goalie Antti Niemi high on his glove side in the shootout. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick – unbeaten in five shootouts this season — then made a sprawling save on the Sharks' Patrick Marleau to seal the victory. It was the Kings third win in a row, the second-longest streak in the conference, and it leaves them one point shy of a playoff spot.

"That was a playoff hockey game," Kings Coach Terry Murray said. "It was hard, it was heavy. There was good checking. There were some big hits. And big goaltending at both ends."

But none of that would have mattered had the Kings not gotten some heroics from Alexei Ponikarovsky early in the third period.

Talk about desperation. Ponikarovsky, who hadn't scored since Dec. 18, needs to make an impression if he hopes to hang on to his limited playing time when Marco Sturm comes off injured reserve. And he took a big step toward that with a hard-earned goal at the end of a long shift, erasing a 2-1 Shark lead at 5:47 of the final period.

The play started with Michal Handzus launching a long slap shot that got tangled up in traffic in front of the San Jose net. Ponikarovsky collected the loose puck and got off a weak backhander but the rebound of that shot bounced right back on his stick and he didn't miss the second time, dropping to his knees in thanks and celebration.

"You have to try to outbattle them basically and put the puck in the net," he said. "You basically wear them down and they all were tired and the end of the shift. We were lucky to just battle and put it in."

The Kings showed their mettle once more late in the period, forcing overtime by killing off a four-minute power play after Brad Richardson was sent off at 13:19 with a double-minor for high sticking Shark defenseman Douglas Murray.

The Sharks overcame a second-period Ryan Smyth goal by getting scores of their own from Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi goals 39 seconds apart later in the period.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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