As crazy as it might sound, Tim Thomas might not have been the American goalie with the most impressive night on Saturday. If nothing else, Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick made an awfully convincing counter-argument.
Quick set a Kings franchise record with 51 saves on 52 shots, silencing those who wonder if he was rattled after allowing six goals in each of his last two games. Maybe his team got a little lucky tonight, but they’re just happy to be alive in a series that isn’t over yet.
Los Angeles 3, San Jose 1; Sharks lead series 3-2
Forgive the Sharks if they left this game with a familiar feeling of frustration. Firing puck after ineffective puck at Quick probably felt a lot like doing the same against Jonas Hiller in 2009 and Craig Anderson in 2010.
Even taking into account the notion that Evgeni Nabokov faced some playoff struggles of his own, the one big difference is that they might not be so sure about their starting goalie this time around. Antti Niemi experienced what must have been the most embarrassing start of his NHL career as he allowed three goals on four shots before getting pulled before the midway point of the first period.
After watching Niemi get pulled in two of the team’s last three games, the Sharks might want to consider turning to Antero Niittymaki. The team’s other new-coming Finnish netminder stopped all 18 shots he faced and only allowed one goal in his other relief appearance (that historic comeback).
Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford earned a goal and an assist each on those first two tallies while Dustin Penner may have eased some of the tension headed his way by making it 3-0. That would end up being all the Kings needed, as Patrick Marleau scored San Jose’s only goal early in the second.
Even if every shot wasn’t a unique snowflake of danger, it still must be tough for the Sharks to accept losing after out-shooting the Kings by 30 shots (52-22). Yet most pundits will tell you that you can often steal a win with a great goalie (Quick) and an early lead (3-0 in the first), so Los Angeles did what they needed to.
Does that mean they can come back and win this series? Their chances will improve greatly if Quick maintains his current, heady level of play.