LOS ANGELES – Joe Pavelski scored the only shootout goal, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Kings 6-5 Thursday night to pull even with Los Angeles atop the Pacific Division with two days left in the regular season.
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe each had a goal and an assist as the Sharks won a phenomenal game between California rivals featuring seven power-play goals, multiple fights and two rough goaltending performances. The game even had a bit of astonishing gamesmanship when Clowe got away with playing the puck from his seat on the San Jose bench late in the third period.
Both teams clinched playoff berths during the game when Dallas and Colorado lost elsewhere, but the Sharks rallied from a late two-goal deficit and then hung on, with Antti Niemi stopping all three Los Angeles shootout tries.
San Jose still has a shot at its fifth consecutive division title when the Sharks and Kings finish the regular season Saturday night at the Shark Tank.
Phoenix now has the inside track on the Pacific crown and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Coyotes have 93 points, one behind Los Angeles and San Jose with 94 apiece, but Phoenix has two games left at St. Louis and Minnesota.
Marty Havlat put the Sharks ahead on a power-play goal with 7:23 to play, but Justin Williams tied it for Los Angeles with his second goal of the third period during a two-man advantage with 3:31 left.
A fantastic game then turned bizarre with about 2 minutes left in regulation when Stoll broke down the ice on a rush near the Sharks' bench. From his seat on the bench, Clowe reached his stick onto the ice and poked the puck away from Stoll — and none of the officials saw what thousands of booing Kings fans could see, allowing the game to continue without a whistle until regulation ended.
Thornton, Clowe and Marleau scored during a 5 1/2-minute surge starting late in the second period, erasing the Kings' two-goal lead before Havlat put the Sharks ahead. Jason Demers scored an early goal for the Sharks, and Niemi made 31 saves.
Jonathan Quick stopped 26 shots while allowing five goals for the first time in his All-Star season for Los Angeles. Jarret Stoll snapped a 33-game goal drought with a second-period score, while Alec Martinez and captain Dustin Brown also scored for the Kings.
Anze Kopitar matched Willie Mitchell's career-high three assists, but the Kings couldn't hold a late lead in their biggest regular-season game in several years. Los Angeles, which had won nine of 12 to surge into the division lead, now needs help to win just the second division title in the franchise's 44-year history.
The Kings clinched their third straight playoff berth shortly before the opening faceoff when Nashville beat ninth-place Dallas, while the Sharks secured their eighth consecutive postseason trip during the first intermission when Columbus beat 10th-place Colorado.
San Jose failed to score during a 5-minute power play spanning the first intermission, but held the Kings without a shot for roughly 13 minutes until Stoll scored his first goal since Jan. 9 in a goal-mouth scramble.
Brown then scored on a brilliant 3-on-2 rush, beating Niemi for his 22nd goal and a 3-1 lead late in the second period. Thornton scored on a power play late in the second period, and Clowe evened it 1:10 into the third, turning his own blocked shot into a breakaway score. Williams put the Kings right back ahead, but Marleau and Havlat scored power-play goals in the third before Williams evened it again.
NOTES: The Kings played their fourth straight game without Jeff Carter, who thinks he'll return from his ankle injury for the postseason. ... Thornton completed a Gordie Howe hat trick with his assist on Marleau's goal. ... Kopitar set a career high with his 49th assist on Martinez's goal. He has a five-game points streak.