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Although the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings have one of the NHL’s liveliest rivalries, the ice has been tilted decidedly toward the north in the past 14 months.
Particularly when the clubs meet down south at Staples Center, where the Sharks have made themselves at home.
Logan Couture had two goals and an assist, Ryan Carpenter scored his first NHL goal and San Jose extended its recent mastery over the Kings with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.
Kevin Labanc also scored and Martin Jones made 26 saves against his former team in the Pacific Division-leading Sharks’ fifth win in six games. Couture and Carpenter scored 30 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period, and Los Angeles couldn’t recover from that defensive lapse.
“Anytime we play LA, there’s no speeches needed,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. “We know it’s going to be a hard game, and our guys respond to the challenge.”
They also make themselves at home in downtown Los Angeles. The Sharks won at Staples Center for the sixth consecutive time, including three playoff victories last spring.
San Jose ousted the Kings in the first round on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, and the Sharks’ control over their oldest rival has continued this fall with two regular season victories.
“They play tough in this building,” Couture said. “They come out with energy. They’re physical. They’re big. They’re strong. They’re difficult to play against, (but) this is how we played last year down the stretch and into the playoffs. We get up on teams, (and) it’s tough for teams to come back. We defend well, and (Jones) makes big saves and we walk out with the win.”
Couture, who sharply criticized the Kings and Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Drew Doughty last year after their playoff series ended, added an empty-net goal. He has only two multipoint games this year — and both were against the Kings.
Doughty tried and failed to keep Couture’s late clearance from settling in the Kings’ empty net.
“I saw the replay and got a little chuckle out of it,” Couture said. “He’s a special player, a guy I see all the time in the summer. It’s always fun to play the best players in the world, and it’s fun we get to play him all the time.”
Dustin Brown scored for the Kings, whose five-game winning streak ended with another frustrating night against their upstate rivals. Peter Budaj stopped 20 shots in Los Angeles’ first home loss in seven games since Nov. 1.
“We know they’re a good team,” Gaborik said. “It was a tight game out there at times, but they had a few odd-man rushes which we normally don’t give up. Hopefully our game will get better and better.”
After Labanc converted Couture’s pass on a 2-on-1 break to open the scoring, Couture got his team-leading eighth goal in the final minute of the Sharks’ three-goal first period.
Carpenter, an AHL All-Star last season while leading San Jose’s top affiliate in scoring, found the net in his fourth NHL game over two seasons — although Budaj probably should have stopped the shot between his legs.
Joel Ward had two assists in the sequence for the Sharks.
Brown finally got the Kings on the board early in the second period, roofing a rebound of Gaborik’s shot during a power play for his fourth goal.
NOTES: Gaborik played his second game of the season and got his first regular season point since Feb. 12. He missed Los Angeles’ first 21 games with a broken foot. … San Jose beat Los Angeles 2-1 on opening night at the Shark Tank. … Los Angeles had the previous three days off. D Matt Greene returned to the lineup and Tom Gilbert was scratched.