Commentary

Joe Pavelski ends Sharks' Game 1 woes

Updated: April 15, 2011, 3:46 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Big Pavelski needs a new nickname.

Joe Pavelski's bullet of a wrist shot 14:44 into overtime Thursday night rocked HP Pavilion and lifted the Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their playoff opener that further cemented the San Jose center's reputation of being Joe Clutch.

Three game winners last spring brought Pavelski to the national forefront, and sitting there during the intermission before overtime Thursday night, he said to himself, why not do it again?

"You're telling yourself you're going to get that chance and score a goal. 'Why not? Let's do it,'" Pavelski said of his mindset before overtime.

Pavelski took a nifty pass from Kyle Wellwood, stepped into the high slot and rifled a shot that beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick glove side into the top right corner. Cue bedlam at HP Pavilion, for our money one of the loudest rinks in the NHL.

"It was kind of like 2-on-2, and Pavelski was coming a little late," Quick said. "I thought I read the play well. I knew that's where he was going to go. He was going to drive down to the wall and kind of hold up and wait for him to get an angle for a pass to Pavelski. I got there. He just beat me. He made a pretty good shot. Obviously, I wish I had made the save, and we could still be playing."

You can hardly blame Quick on this night. Maybe Logan Couture's second-period goal through the pads wasn't pretty, but the Kings goalie made 42 saves on the night and delivered the kind of game his underdog team will need to try to steal one.

"He's great," Pavelski said of Quick. "You saw some of his saves tonight. He's really good down low. He's quick and athletic. So you have to get traffic there and find ways to get more than 25 shots on him every night."

Pavelski's heroics also saved the Sharks from losing their playoff opener for the fourth year in a row. For once, they're not spending the next 48 hours answering questions about their playoff past.

"We've had a pretty bad history as far as losing the first game," said Sharks veteran blueliner Dan Boyle, who logged a game-high 35 minutes. "It could have been one of those nights again where I felt we were for the most part the better team and still lost. But that's a huge first win for us. They just get bigger and bigger now. We definitely want to get out of here up 2-0."

If Game 1 was any indication, the hot tub will be a popular postgame locale for players in this series. There was some serious hitting going on out there, San Jose winger Devin Setoguchi with a whopper of an open-ice hit on Los Angeles forward Brad Richardson 15 minutes into the first period, and there were many more to come. Kings captain Dustin Brown hit everything that moved and led his team with seven; Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe of the Sharks did much the same in combining for 12 hits. We're talking bone-rattling hits, not love taps.

"Opening round of the playoffs and for a first game, that was really physical," said Clowe, who had three assists. "They got guys that hit hard. I thought we did a good job as well. We expected an emotional and hard first period but that might have been above and beyond what everyone thought, and it's a good way to develop a rivalry."

The most damaging was a hit that might cost the Kings some league discipline. Kings center Jarret Stoll nailed Sharks defenseman Ian White from behind into the end boards, White's head rammed into the glass. There was no penalty on the play; the closest ref to the play was screened by other players. It should have been a five-minute boarding and game misconduct. White looked dazed as he left the ice, and he did not return, making him questionable obviously for Game 2.

Stoll isn't a dirty player, but that's the kind of play involving a head shot that the NHL is trying to weed out. A source confirmed to ESPN.com on Thursday night that the NHL in Toronto was looking at it.

Otherwise, the hitting was clean yet heavy, and while the Sharks did most of the early pounding, the Kings did not back down and started giving it back in the second period.

The Sharks came out flying in the opening 20 minutes, not only hitting every King who moved but outshooting the visitors 14-3. They scored just 28 seconds into the affair when Dany Heatley banged home a rebound, HP Pavilion rocking in agreement.

The Kings responded by outshooting the Sharks 16-9 in the second period, laying the body and winning their own battles. Brown and Justin Williams of the Kings sandwiched Couture's pretty goal for the Sharks, and through 40 minutes, the Kings were back in a game that didn't seem in reach in the opening period.

"We came back, we competed, we got to a very good hockey game going on, as we got to the end of the second period," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "I thought the teams were competing in all the hard areas. We made some good things happen to get our two goals. I think it's just a typical NHL playoff hockey game at that time."

A scoreless third period made way to Pavelski's favorite period. The Sharks prevailed on this night, but the Kings served noticed they're not going to back down from the favorites. This could be a longer series than some people predicted, and one that will leave players on both teams black and blue.

Grab a seat, folks, this one is going to be fun.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.