Sharks' loss sets up date with Vancouver
The Sharks and Canucks Round 1 matchup will be the first playoff meeting between the two teams since the Western Conference finals in 2011. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
LOS ANGELES – The Sharks are headed to Vancouver.
San Jose dropped a 3-2 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night at Staples Center, to finish in sixth place in the Western Conference. The Sharks will battle the Northwest Division winning Canucks with the first two games at Rogers Arena.
The Kings secured the fifth seed and will play the St. Louis Blues.
By the time the game started, the two teams already knew that home ice in the first round was not possible. The Blues secured the four seed with a 3-1 win over Chicago in a game that ended just before the Sharks and Kings dropped the puck.
The Sharks trailed 2-1 to start the third, and nearly tied the game when Dan Boyle’s shot rang off of the post with 11 minutes to go.
About a minute later, Justin Williams deposited a pass through the crease by Brad Richardson to give Los Angeles a two-goal cushion it would need.
TJ Galiardi’s goal on a pass through the slot by Joe Pavelski at 17:34 brought the Sharks back to within 3-2, but they couldn’t find the equalizer.
Kyle Clifford’s goal in the first minute of the second period opened the scoring. Clifford’s shot from the circle trickled through Antti Niemi and momentary sat in the crease before Clifford charged in to whack it in at 48 seconds.
Logan Couture answered less than a minute later to tie it at 1-1. Couture danced through defensemen Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi before lifting in a spectacular unassisted marker at 1:37.
Couture has six goals in his last nine games, and finished with a team-leading 21.
The Kings took the lead back before the intermission. Voynov’s slap shot from the point appeared to deflect off of James Sheppard at 5:31 to make it 2-1.
Clifford nearly made it a 3-1 lead for the Kings, when he stared at a wide open net on a slick feed from Jeff Carter. Marc-Edouard Vlasic got his stick on Clifford’s one-timer at the last moment to keep it out of the net with about eight minutes left in the second period.
The Kings finished with seven straight home wins, and a 19-4-1 mark at Staples Center for 39 points. That tied the Sharks and Blackhawks for most points gained at home in the league.
There was just one power play in the game, when Andrew Desjardins was called for tripping at 5:31 of the third period. The Sharks killed it off.
San Jose went without a power play for just the second time this season (March 28 vs. Detroit).
Niemi returned to the crease after getting the night off on Wednesday in Phoenix. He fell to 10-5-2 career against the Kings with 24 saves. He finished the season tied with Henrik Lundqvist and Niklas Backstrom for the league lead in wins with 24.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in improving to 9-4-5 career against San Jose.
Marty Havlat, who missed Friday’s practice with a “maintenance day,” was a late scratch after Todd McLellan said he expected him to play. Tim Kennedy took Havlat’s place on the Couture line with Patrick Marleau, playing for the first time since March 10.
Scott Hannan skated on defense in place of Matt Tennyson, who suited up against Phoenix on Wednesday.
Jason Demers (sprained left ankle) remained out and is not yet skating.
The Kings were without defenseman Matt Greene (undisclosed injury) and captain Dustin Brown (suspended).
Dates and times for the Sharks’ series with Vancouver have not yet been announced. It will be the first playoff meeting between the two teams since the Western Conference finals in 2011.
The Sharks won all three games of the season series with Vancouver.