Kings bite back to avoid Sharks sweep
STAPLES CENTER — The Kings gave the Sharks a taste of their own offensive medicine Thursday to avoid a sweep with a convincing 6-3 victory on home ice.
Though not known for their scoring prowess, the Kings offense broke down the Sharks defense all night. Aided by bounces that went their way, Los Angeles turned in their highest scoring game of the series.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was disappointed with the effort from his team:
“I didn’t like our net play, simple as that …When we go back to the goals it’s quite easy to pinpoint some of the mistakes that we made and for us to have success moving forward, that has to get cleaned up quickly.”
Both teams came out with tenacity in a chippy first period, which saw the two competitors combine for 25 hits, three power play opportunities and a total of 30 penalty minutes.
The Kings got on the board early as Dustin Brown raced up the boards, sending a shot towards Niemi who deflected the puck to the waiting Marian Gaborik who wristed it past Niemi. Slava Voynov was credited with an assist as well.
The Sharks tied the score at 1-1 with just seven seconds in the first period after Tomas Hertl sent a pass from behind the net to defensemen Scott Hannan,who slapped in a one-timer from the right face-off circle.
Quick was able to deflect the shot up off his pads, but James Sheppard was there to take a swing at the puck, sending it to the back of the net.
The Kings retook the lead to start the second after Raffi Torres was called for boarding, giving them the man advantage.
After feeding a pass to Justin Williams on the wing, forward Mike Richard raced towards the net to position himself for the rebound. His presence may have been enough to distract net minder Antti Niemi enough that he allowed Williams snap shot to trickle through, putting them up 2-1.
The Sharks responded again as Patrick Marleau — whose overtime goal gave the Sharks the win on Tuesday — raced up the slot, putting a shot on Quick who deflected it right of the goal straight to Matt Nieto, who was able to tally his second goal in as many nights.
The Sharks defense stalled late in the second, as the Kings were able to rattle off two unanswered goals before ending the period.
Williams got his second goal of the night by swatting a puck over the back of Niemi after Willie Mitchell’s one-timer from the point — which missed wide of the net — bounced off the boards and back towards the goal. Jarret Stoll picked up an assist on the play.
The Kings struck again at 19:01 after defensemen Alec Martinez sent a shot from the point that deflected off his teammate and straight to the stick of Tyler Toffoli, whose wrist-shot found the back of the net. Jeff Carter was also credited with an assist.
Continuing their streak of unanswered goals, the Kings scored 34 seconds into the final frame after defensemen Brad Stuart failed to clear a puck along the boards in the Sharks zone.
Anze Kopitar centered the puck from the corner, finding Gaborik in the slot for his second goal of the night, putting the Sharks in a three-goal hole.
McLellan elected to pull Niemi from the ice in place of Alex Stalock, who would make four saves while not allowing another goal while in net.
The Sharks showed a jolt of life near the 11-minute mark as a two-goal swing helped them narrow the deficit to two.
The Kings’ Williams sent a slapshot from the point into the back of the net for what appeared to be a score. However Jarret Stoll was called for a cross check on Brad Stuart, who momentarily laid face-first in front of the net, negating the goal and giving the Sharks a power play.
The Sharks brought the heat early with their man-advantage, bringing traffic to the front of the net, where Joe Pavelski wristed the puck top-shelf on Quick at the 11:36 mark.
The goal gave the Sharks a fighting chance, though the Kings’ stifling defense held strong, forcing the Sharks into an open net situation.
A costly turnover in their zone led Toffoli to feed Dustin Brown for an open net goal to bring the score to 6-3 at the 18:32 mark in the third, securing the need for Game 5 back in San Jose.
The win kept the Kings from being swept in the playoffs for the first time since Detroit beat them in four games in 2000.
The final score of 6-3 may have seemed like a cruising victory for the Kings, but forward Joe Thornton felt the Sharks played well in the losing effort:
“I don’t necessarily think the scoreboard did us justice. I think we played a pretty solid game. I think they just got more of the puck bounces tonight…Now we just have to go home and do our job.”
Tempers flared in the final minute, with five roughing penalties being called against the Sharks alone. Brent Burns and Robyn Regehr went extra-innings with each other, coming to blows after the final horn sounded.
Forward Logan Couture adressed the bad blood between the two teams after the game:
“Thats hockey. They don’t like us, we don’t like them. It’s Game 4 of a series, we’ve seen them a lot over the past week. Certain players don’t like each other and that’s the way this game goes.”
The Sharks return to San Jose to try to close the series out in Game 5 on Saturday at 7:30 at SAP Center.