SAN JOSE, Calif. — About the only positive the Los Angeles Kings could take out of their lopsided loss in their playoff opener to the San Jose Sharks was no matter how poorly they played, it still only counted as one loss.
Star goalie Jonathan Quick was pulled after a rough first two periods, the Kings fell behind by five goals in the second period as they gave up far too many odd-man rushes and Los Angeles couldn’t get anything past Antti Niemi until it was far too late.
It all added up to a 6-3 loss to San Jose and a lesson the Kings know they need to take into Game 2 tonight if they want to even the series before returning home for two games.
“We knew that they were going to come out hard, especially in their building,” Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. “We didn’t do a very good job of weathering the storm. We’ll learn from it and that’s why there are seven games.”
San Jose coach Todd McLellan stressed before Game 1 the importance of putting that game in the past.
It’s a lesson the Sharks are heeding with the experience of knowing how quickly a series can change.
“That’s what you have to do in the playoffs in a long series like this” forward Tommy Wingels said. “You take good things from it and you find a few things you can improve on, but Game 1 was Game 1. It’s over with now.”
Here are five things to watch in Game 2 of the series:
QUESTIONABLE QUICK: Quick was the biggest reason why the Kings knocked the Sharks out a year ago, limiting San Jose to 10 goals in seven games. San Jose scored half that many in the first 40 minutes against Quick, taking advantage of a few fortunate bounces and some poor play in front of Quick. It was the most goals Quick allowed in the postseason since allowing six in back-to-back losses to the Sharks in 2011.
“I don’t think we played very well in front of him,” Martinez said. “I think those goals were a byproduct of the team in front of him not playing well. It wasn’t on Quickie.”
FINDING NEMO: The Sharks spent much of this season looking for the kind of play from Niemi that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist a year ago. But inconsistent play throughout the season, especially down the stretch, led to questions about whether Niemi would even start ahead of rookie Alex Stalock come playoff time. Niemi responded with a strong save against Jeff Carter on the opening shift and didn’t give up anything until allowing three late goals when San Jose let up in the third period with a 5-0 lead.
HARD HITS: Both teams showed no hesitation to take the body in Game 1 as they wanted to inflict as much punishment as possible to wear down the opposition as the series gets deeper. The tone was set early with 55 combined hits in the first period and Los Angeles finished the game with 69 — 12 more than any other team generated in a game this season — and San Jose matched a franchise record for a regulation game with 52.
“I don’t think it’s going to change much,” McLellan said. “It’s two teams that compete hard.”
REVVED-UP RAFFI: After playing just five games in the regular season because of injuries and missing the final six games of last year’s series against the Kings, Sharks forward Raffi Torres was eager to get back on the ice. Torres led the Sharks with seven hits and ended up with what proved to be the game-winning goal when he beat Quick on a rebound of Marc Edouard-Vlasic’s shot in the second period.
“Raf was hungry to play which is a nice thing,” McLellan said. “That energy and enthusiasm ran throughout our lineup.”
FACING OFF: Both teams rely on winning the faceoff circle to control possession but there was a decided mismatch in Game 1 when both teams had their third lines in the game. Jarret Stoll won nine of 11 draws against James Sheppard, forcing McLellan to use Joe Pavelski on key draws for that line. Pavelski won four of five draws against Stoll, including all three taken in the defensive zone.
“It’s important that you try to win as many as you can and get on the forecheck,” Pavelski said.