Ratto: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks

April 24, 2011, 5:22 am
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan was worried that the Sharks would be too comfortable to close out the Los Angeles Kings. Well, they werent too comfortable Saturday night. They never got the chance.

With a full week to contemplate their future in the second round, the Sharks couldnt dispose of the first, losing on a count-out, 3-1, to the Kings at Le Pavilion de HP to force a sixth game Monday night at Le Centre De Agrafes in Los Angeles.
RECAP: Back to L.A. -- Kings top Sharks to extend series
You know, the home of the Flameout On Figueroa. The last place the Kings took a big early lead.Only most big leads do stand up, and in this case, Jonathan Quick propped it up with a 51-save performance that included a good dozen excellent scoring chances, according to head coach Terry Murray. He was very good tonight. Now we have to go back and win one for him.McLellan, on the other hand, has a fistful of thorns of a goalie problem, after Antti Niemi and poor defense work in front of him combined to allow three goals in four shots in the first 8:42, thus ending the game even before it had a chance to clear its throat.

The first one (by Wayne Simmonds) comes off a hell of a deflection, McLellan said, reviewing the nails in his teams crest. The second one (by Kyle Clifford), he makes a great save off a 2-on-1 that shouldnt exist (turnover by Dan Boyle), and the third one (by Dustin Penner), hes a little deep in his net, and he knows that.But then he added a subtler but more damaging assessment, one that cant be fixed by exchanging a Finn (Antero Niittymaki) for a Finn (Niemi).We have six (defensemen) dressed who are better than they showed tonight, he said. I probably dont have to tell them, but I will remind them of that.Indeed, the Sharks defense has been spotty in all areas, starting with Dan Boyle and running through the group, and Saturday was a particularly painful effort, even though the Sharks ended with 52 shots to only 22 for the Kings.RELATED: NHL playoff scoreboard
This was indeed Quicks game to savor. His 51 saves included both stand-on-his-head beauties and more fundamental skills, both with rebound control and crease command throughout the evening, turning a game the Sharks lost early into one they might never have won under any circumstances.It was especially gratifying for him given that he had allowed 12 goals in the previous five periods.I feel if you come in angry, its going to take away from your game, he said of his mindset in turning hay into gold. You just forget about it, you move on, it doesnt matter how many goals they score in one game. The next game is a clean slate and you start over. Not too many emotions going in. Youre just trying to be even-keel and make the saves to help your team win.He also pointed out that the Sharks threw a lot more shots than quality shots at him.A lot of the shots were from the perimeter, he said. We limited their Grade A chances from last time and I also felt I played a bit better than last time out. Its a great win and were looking forward to Game 6.The Sharks looked best in the first period . . . well, once you forget that the first minutes gave them a splenectomy. But all three periods had that same sense lots of busy work, not so much effective work. And the Kings played the tight, sensible, defensive game they are noted for and that the Sharks have shown little of in this series. Their goaltending is a huge problem (early betting is for Niittymaki in Game 6), and the puck management in their zone has been, if anything, worse. It put them in a hole that their profligate shooting could not overcome, and Quick was everything a goaltender must be in the playoffs.You get to this point, and your goaltender is going to have to win you a game, Murray said. Its been going on for 50 years.But not here, not for the last decade at least. The Sharks havent stolen a series with their goaltending ever, and when the offense cant find a goal and the defense cant handle the puck well enough to prevent them, that becomes a serious issue.In the end, the Sharks got a lot of shots, did little with them, and ran into a goalie at the top of his powers while their own goalie seems to have lost most of his. Game 6 is Monday, and the breathing is getting a little harder. This series is going to take a lot more out of the Sharks than theyd hoped, and it might still take them out entirely. As they say, nothing is safe until its home and dry.