Highlights: Sharks lose Hertl and game in Los Angeles
After a terrfic start to the season, Antti Niemi fell to 9-6-5 in his last 20 starts. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
LOS ANGELES – Tomas Hertl was knocked from the game in the first period, and things only got worse from there.
The Sharks failed to challenge impressive rookie goalie Martin Jones for most the game in a 4-1 Kings win on Thursday night at Staples Center, falling further behind Los Angeles in the competitive Pacific Division.
The Sharks lost their eighth straight game in Los Angeles, including the second round of the playoffs last spring.
Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Dwight King all had a goal and an assist to pace the Kings, who moved four points ahead of the Sharks for second place in the division. Jones has now won his first seven career NHL starts, making 31 saves and allowing only a Patrick Marleau goal when the game was out of reach for San Jose.
Late in the first period with the game still scoreless, Hertl received a knee-on-knee hit from Kings captain Dustin Brown, who was issued a major penalty and game misconduct. Hertl, favoring his right side, skated immediately to the bench and up the player tunnel. The Sharks offered no immediate update on his condition.
Los Angeles struck twice in the second period to take a 2-0 lead. A Brad Stuart defensive zone turnover led to Alec Martinez’s point shot beating Antti Niemi, on a shot that may have deflected off of Joe Pavelski before finding the back of the net at 5:26.
Less than six minutes later, Toffoli’s wrist shot from the circle beat Niemi to the far side, and the Kings had a two-goal cushion.
Jones was rarely tested until late in the second. Pavelski couldn’t find the handle on a bouncing puck in the crease with Jones out of position, and Tommy Wingels’ wraparound attempt off of Jones’ pad was gloved by the goaltender just before crossing the line. A brief video review confirmed the puck didn’t fall.
The Kings put the game away in the third. In the first minute, a neutral zone turnover led to an easy tip-in for Carter on a pass from King, who plowed over Justin Braun high in the zone. After another ineffective power play by the Sharks, King scored a goal himself when he flipped in a rebound at 6:16.
The Sharks have not won a regulation game in the regular season here since Jan. 1, 2011. The Kings improved to 2-1 against the Sharks in the season series, with the final two meetings come at SAP Center.
Logan Couture, who has just two goals in his last 17 games and none in his last eight, struggled to find the net. Couture finished with six missed shots, including open looks at the net in the first and second period in which he misfired.
Marleau scored with two minutes and 10 seconds left to spoil the shutout, which would have been Jones’ fourth in seven games.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 in nine minutes of power play time. Los Angeles failed on its one and only opportunity.
The first two minutes of Brown’s major for hitting Hertl were nullified by Brent Burns’ interference minor, but the Sharks were unable to capitalize in the remaining three minutes. James Sheppard’s attempt from close range was their best chance.
Jake Muzzin hit Marty Havlat with a direct check from behind at 2:51 of the third period. Havlat took some time to get to his feet, but remained in the game.
Niemi fell to 9-6-5 in his last 20 starts. He’s played in 14 of the last 15 games.
Jones was making his first career start against San Jose.
Tyler Kennedy returned after he was a healthy scratch on Tuesday. Scott Hannan played after missing the last five games with an upper body injury, replacing Jason Demers on the blue line.
Marleau played in his 1200th NHL game, all with the San Jose organization.
The Sharks return home to host the Dallas Stars on Saturday and Colorado Avalanche on Monday.