It’s always quite a special spectacle when the NHL takes it action outdoors. The Los Angeles Kings made the most of the event at Levi’s Stadium and beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 thanks to a third period goal from Marian Gaborik as they try and find a way into the postseason.
Yes, the defending Stanley Cup champions are struggling this season and will probably be battling the Sharks, Canucks, Flames, Sharks and Wild for the last two playoff spots in the West. They’ve now won seven games in a row, but tying the season series with the Sharks at 2-2 in front of 70,000 in what is basically a road game probably felt a bit more special than the previous games.
Kyle Clifford scored the first goal for the Kings and Jonathan Quick had an excellent day defending his goal with 31 saves. The home fans left disappointed, like most 49ers fans have during this season in home games. This was a night that celebrated the popularity of the sport in Northern California, but the Kings spoiled the party, and it probably would have been feeling a bit more festive had the Sharks won the game.
Todd McLellan, Sharks head coach: This was a little more significant, obviously, because this was our show. These were our fans. … They showed up in droves. I know there were Kings fans here, and there were just plain hockey fans. That’s what made tonight so special. But the fact we lost was disappointing. But to be part of it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
While Brent Burns was the one to equalize and score the only goal for the Sharks, it was his turnover in the third period that allowed Gaborik to score the puck past Antti Niemi and silence the huge crowd, although it didn’t come close to the record set at Michigan Stadium with 105,941 fans. The road teams have now improved to 11-3-1 in NHL outdoor games, which means that despite the huge attendance, something of the home ice advantage gets taken away by expanding the spectacle.