SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings delivered plenty of disappointment to the San Jose Sharks with two straight playoff series victories. They never sent as many Sharks fans home unhappy as they did Saturday night.
Marian Gaborik scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and the Kings spoiled San Jose’s outdoor party with a 2-1 victory over the Sharks.
“It’s definitely special,” Gaborik said. “It was my second outdoor game. It’s been fun in terms of putting pucks into the net. But it definitely feels good to get the goal. It was a fun game.”
Kyle Clifford also scored and Jonathan Quick made 31 saves as the Kings won their seventh straight game.
Gaborik silenced an enthusiastic crowd of 70,205 just over 4 minutes into the third period when he took the puck away from Brent Burns in the neutral zone and skated in before beating Antti Niemi with a shot from the top of the circle.
“We knew the ice wasn’t that great,” Gaborik said. “We tried to forecheck Burns. Burnsy had the puck on the stick. Just picked it off of him and tried to go, and the shot went in.”
The Sharks were unable to get the equalizer against Quick to send most of the fans in the third largest crowd ever to watch an NHL game home unhappy on a night meant to celebrate hockey’s success in Northern California.
“This was a little more significant, obviously, because this was our show,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “These were our fans. … They showed up in droves. I know there were Kings fans here, and there were just plain hockey fans. That’s what made tonight so special. But the fact we lost was disappointing. But to be part of it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Burns scored the lone goal for the Sharks, who have lost six of eight games to put their 10-season streak of playoff appearances in jeopardy. Niemi made 27 saves.
As much as this was a spectacle, it also was an important contest in the Western Conference playoff race. With the win, the Kings moved from out of playoff position into third place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles is tied with Calgary and San Jose with 68 points but has played fewer games than both those teams.
“Before the game we knew we didn’t want this to be a distraction, we just wanted points,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “The game was huge for us and huge for them. It’s a division rival, and to get two points it feels great.”
The second outdoor game in California was full of pomp and circumstance with John Fogerty performing in the first intermission and Melissa Etheridge in the second.
The ice rink was surrounded by designs of the topography of Northern California with designs of mountains, plants, hills and bodies of water including numerous shark fins for a special touch.
“As soon as the puck drops, it’s hockey, though you’d catch yourself looking up at the big board once in a while,” Sharks center Joe Thornton said.
The ice was a bit choppier than the usual indoor variety is, forcing both teams to simplify their games. But the game-time temperature was 57 degrees, nearly twice the average of the previous 14 outdoor games.
The Kings did the better job of dealing with the surroundings early and controlled the play for most of the first period, getting the first goal less than 3 minutes in when Clifford deflected a point shot by Jake Muzzin past Niemi.
The Sharks found their legs late in the period and tied it with just over a minute left when Burns beat Quick with a wrist shot from the boards after a faceoff win by Tommy Wingels. Quick got a piece of the shot but it wasn’t enough as he appeared to have trouble seeing the puck.
The Sharks had plenty of chances in the second period but couldn’t get anything past Quick. Couture had two of the best opportunities but had a shot blocked by Matt Greene’s stick with an open net on the power play, and then hit the post in the closing minute.
NOTES: The biggest attendance at an outdoor NHL game came last year at Michigan Stadium with 105,941 fans. The first Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008 is second with 71,217. … Road teams improved to 11-3-1 in NHL outdoor games. The Kings lost their home outdoor game last year at Dodger Stadium 3-0 to Anaheim. … The Sharks became the 19th franchise to play an outdoor game.
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