Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Sharks trump Kings with a shutout

NHL Both teams had rust to shake off, as evidenced by the number of neutral-zone turnovers in the first 10 minutes, but San Jose ended with a 5-0 victory

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND AP , SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIAAND NEW YORK

Goalie Mika Noronen, left, of the Buffalo Sabres slides over to make a save on a shot by Josef Vasicek, right, of the Carolina Hurricanes as Rory Fitzpatrick of the Sabres defends at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York, Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

A tie game didn't sound so bad to the Los Angeles Kings after their dismal effort Friday night.

Coming off their holiday break, and the three tie games that preceded it, the Kings were slow to get started, gave up two first-period goals within 30 seconds and two more in a second-period spurt and fell to the San Jose Sharks 5-0 in front of 17,496 at HP Pavilion.

It was the first meeting of the season between the teams that, at least until tonight's rematch, now share the lead in the Pacific Division, but only one team looked ready to play.

"We've got to shape up as a team, and we will," Luc Robitaille said. "There's a lot of character on this team, and I'm positive that we will bounce back [tonight]."

Both teams had some rust to shake off, as evidenced by the number of neutral-zone turnovers in the first 10 minutes. But the Sharks got back into form first, and scored midway through the period on quick-strike goals by Nils Ekman and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Kings goalie Cristobal Huet, playing in place of injured Roman Cechmanek, gave up four goals for the third time in his past four games, but they came in bursts and the defense contributed to a couple. Kings defenseman Maxim Kuznetsov was on the ice for four San Jose goals.

"We had some guys who didn't play very good on the blue line," Kings coach Andy Murray said.

There was plenty for the Kings to be embarrassed about, especially considering that the Sharks had scored more than three goals just once in their past 20 games. Huet was pulled after the second period in favor of Milan Hnilicka, who was recalled for the American Hockey League and made his Kings debut.

"I didn't like any of our players tonight, and our goalie was one of them," Murray said. "If we could have changed 18 other players, I would have done the same thing after the second period.

"Unfortunately, they only allow you to dress 20."

The Kings didn't have many quality scoring chances until a strong third period, and Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped them all, and allowed fewer than three goals for the fourth time in his past five starts and recorded his third shutout.

By the end of the first period, the Sharks already had half the number of shots, 11, that Murray targets for his team to give up in the entire game.

At the 11:30 mark, Kings center Michael Cammalleri was kicked out of the faceoff circle, replaced by another forward, Martin Straka. San Jose center Alyn McCauley won the draw and knocked the puck back to McLaren, who ripped a slap shot that was deflected by Ekman in front of the net and past Huet.

The Sharks controlled the ensuing faceoff and worked the puck behind the Kings' net.

Huet went back to play it, and even though three Kings were around the net, San Jose's Wayne Primeau was able to center the puck to Cheechoo.

Huet scrambled to get back in position, but couldn't get square to the puck before Cheechoo tucked his wrist shot into the right side of the net for a 2-0 San Jose lead.

"I thought I had more time, but the puck went very slow to me behind the net," Huet said. "It was my mistake."

The Kings looked as though they had solved their first-period woes with a strong start to the second, but couldn't put anything past Nabokov.

The Kings generated some momentum early in the second period, but it seemed to be slowed by a poor power play midway though the period in which they couldn't put a shot on Nabokov.

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