Game 5 Could Be Wakeup Call Sharks Needed
SAN JOSE -- After playing well and establishing a commanding lead in this Western Conference First Round series, the San Jose Sharks have finally been presented with some adversity against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings have won two straight to make it a 3-2 series lead for the Sharks, and will play Game 6 on Monday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME).
For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Perry Pearn to break down the action.
Pearn has spent the past 18 seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and a second tenure with the Jets in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
"It felt like it was a complete role reversal from the first three games of the series in the first period," Pearn said. "L.A. looked quicker. L.A.'s transition game seemed much better. San Jose was chasing the game right from the drop of the puck. I think the last two periods probably didn't matter because the game was decided in that first period.
"Certainly it wasn't the same San Jose team that had played for sure the first three games and I think you still saw the same intensity in Game 4 even though they didn't win."
The Kings jumped on the Sharks early, dominating the puck and peppering goaltender Antti Niemi. They scored twice on 18 shots in the first period and a third on their first attempt of the second before Niemi was replaced by Alex Stalock.
It wasn't just the score; Los Angeles had 22 of the 29 shot attempts at even strength in the first period, and generated chances both on the rush and after consistent time in the offensive end.
San Jose was unable to match the desperation Los Angeles played with, and it showed early and often in Game 5.
"It was my sense, that the Sharks looked like would have won the game if it had been easy, but it didn't look like they wanted to win it the hard way, the way that they had played in the first four games of the series," Pearn said. "There was no way that game was an intense or as physical as some of the other earlier games. It was still physical but not at the same level, I don't think."
San Jose was forcing Los Angeles into mistakes earlier in this series, but the Kings have played better in each of the past three games. The Sharks aren't finding as many odd-man rushes, the goals aren't flowing like they once were.
"I think [Game 5] could serve as a bit of a wakeup call," Pearn said. "It might actually be easier for the Sharks to close the series on the road. I think they can get back to just playing the way they want. I thought part of the problem was they were trying to force things. Earlier in the series, that's what we saw from L.A., the turnovers that created transition chances. [Saturday] night it looked like San Jose was forcing things and creating problems.
"The penalty that [Justin] Braun took that led to the power-play goal looked like it was forced and he ended up taking the tripping penalty. The second goal was a 3-on-2 after a bad decision by [Brent] Burns to throw it in the air across the ice. If you make the play, it is high risk, but if you miss you know it is going the other way. We didn't see San Jose making these kinds of mistakes earlier in the series."
These were two of the best teams in the League at controlling the puck and dominating possession during the regular season. The Kings have started to assert themselves a little more in that area in the past few games.
One way for the Sharks to combat that is control the game when it is not at even strength. The Kings had some discipline issues earlier in the series, and the Sharks have scored four times on the power play.
"The special teams is always so crucial," Pearn said. "L.A. won the special teams battle [Saturday] night, but to me San Jose has the advantage with the power play if they're clicking. [Saturday] night they didn't score, but I had a sense in the game that had they scored -- and they had a couple of chances -- it would have given them some momentum and it would have been a much closer battle at the end than it was. Going forward in the next two games, I think the power play is going to be a big factor if San Jose is going to be successful."
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer