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Kings-Sharks: Stoll wins it for Kings in shootout

January 26, 2011 |  8:19 pm

Jarret Stoll's
well-placed wrist shot beat Antti Niemi high to the goalie's glove side to lift the Kings to a 3-2 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday at Staples Center.

The game was knotted at 2-2 after regulation then the Kings played through a scoreless overtime and through the first four rounds of the shootout.

Not only were the Kings frustrated in the shootout, but they were denied on five excellent scoring chances in a fast-paced overtime.

Kings 2, Sharks 2 (after overtime)

The playoff races don’t begin in earnest until the NHL returns from its All-Star break next week. But that didn’t stop the Kings from getting a head start on their postseason push Wednesday at Staples Center.

Playing a red-hot San Jose team they need to pass to reach the postseason, the Kings rallied to force overtime with a third-period goal that tied the score at 2-2.

Alexei Ponikarovsky's hard-earned goal at 5:47 of the final period got the Kings back into the game after they fell behind 2-1 late in the second period. Ponikarovsky, who hadn't scored since Dec. 18, was stopped on his first shot, a backhander from straight in front of the net. But the rebound bounced right back to him and this time he chipped the puck into the back of the net before falling to the ice and pumping his fists in celebration.

The Sharks had a golden opportunity to go back in front in the final six minutes when the Kings' Brad Richardson was assessed a double minor for high-sticking the Sharks' Douglas Murray. But San Jose couldn't convert on the four-minute power play

The Sharks came in having won four in a row, pulling to within a victory of the top eight in the Western Conference. The Kings started the night riding a two-game winning streak and needing a win to tie the Sharks in the standings.

Sharks 2, Kings 1 (after two periods)

Goals by Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe just seconds apart gave the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 lead over the Kings after two periods at Staples Center.

Ryan Smyth had given the Kings a 1-0 lead, wristing a soft shot past goalie Antti Niemi less than seven minutes before the second intermission.

Smyth took a short pass from Jarret Stoll, skated through the top of the right faceoff circle then slid the puck through a trio of Sharks defenders and into the net on Niemi's stick side. It was his 19th goal of the season.  

The Sharks answered less than three minutes later when Clowe gathered the long rebound of a missed Kings shot in the San Jose end, carried the puck nearly the length of the ice and beat Jonathan Quick cleanly. Seconds after the resulting faceoff Quick was again digging the puck out of the net, this time after Setoguchi, perched in front of the right goalpost, pushed the puck through a crowd and under Quick's pads.

Earlier in the period the Kings defense, which has allowed as many as 30 shots just once in the last eight games, gave Quick some timely assistance, twice clearing loose pucks from the crease with the goalie down on the ice after making a save.

   Kings 0, Sharks 0 (after one period)

The Kings and San Jose Sharks, separated by just two points in the Western Conference standings, locked horns at Staples Center on Wednesday with each team looking to carry its new-found momentum into the NHL All-Star break, which begins Thursday.

And neither team blinked during a taut, defensive first period that ended scoreless.

The Kings, winners of two in a row, just missed grabbing a lead less than four minutes after the opening faceoff when Ryan Smyth was unable to corral the rebound of an Alec Martinez slapshot from the blue line. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi stopped the shot and during the scramble that ensued in front of the goal Smyth got turned around and whiffed in his attempt to bat the loose puck into the open net.

Justin Williams failed to connect on another good Kings' scoring chance in the 13th minute. After San Jose, winners of four straight, turned the puck over in its own end, Williams took a pass and fired on Niemi from the right faceoff circle only to have his shot miss  the net wide to the left.

But Niemi's best save came about a minute from the intermission when he stuck on his right leg to make a pad save on Brad Richardson, who shot on goal from right in front of the net

Both teams took a conservative, postseason-type approach early on, emphasizing checking and  combining for just three shots in the first 9:45 and 14 shots in the period. Both teams also avoided the penalty box until the final four seconds when Smyth was flagged for interference.

   -- Kevin Baxter

Photo:Ryan Smyth celebrates with his teammates after scoring a second period goal against the Sharks on Wednesday. Credit: Victor Decolongon / Getty Images