The San Jose Sharks took Game 1 of their opening round series against the Los Angeles Kings by a 4-3 final on Thursday night.
A quick look at the box score and you might assume it was San Jose's star players who carried the load. Captain Joe Pavelski scored twice, linemate Tomas Hertl tallied another and Brent Burns scored on a wicked wrister off an offensive-zone face-off win. However, one could make the case that San Jose's top line of Pavelski, Hertl and Joe Thornton were actually the weakest of their four lines at even strength.
By possession standards, that No. 1 line was still really good, but they didn't generate many grade-A looks. It was San Jose's second and third lines, particularly the third centered by Patrick Marleau that was the best at possessing the puck and creating quality chances. Marleau and wingers Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson were three of the top eight corsi-for players on the night while Nieto and Karlsson were third and fourth. Marleau was flying all night long and set up Karlsson for one of the best plays of the night.
San Jose's second line didn't score a goal in the sense that neither of the three forwards got credit for one, but it was Ward's faceoff win that set up Burns' second period go-ahead goal. Couture and Donskoi were once again solid and Ward would add another assist on Hertl's power-play goal.
Last, but certainly not least, San Jose's fourth line made a big impact. After having a terrible shift early in the first period that led to the Kings taking an early 1-0 lead, Nick Spaling, Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels bounced back in a big way with a terrific hard working shift. They were able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone and drew the penalty that led to Pavelski's power-play tally that tied the score at 1. From there on out the fourth line contributed quality minutes throughout the game.
Wingels, Tierney and Spaling all played over 11 minutes with the latter two each skating for more than 13 minutes. Conversely, two of the Kings fourth liners skated only 9:52 and 10:20. As for the Sharks fourth line, Spaling in particular, a player who I have criticized being in the lineup over Dainius Zubrus, was quite disruptive on the forecheck as the Kings tried to break out.
While neither the Tierney line nor the Marleau line scored, they were both a big part of San Jose's success in Game 1.