STAPLES CENTER — The San Jose Sharks lost more than Game 1 to the Los Angeles Kings – they lost their physical presence in forward Raffi Torres, suspended for the rest of the series. Thursday night, they lost Game 2 in its final minutes, allowing a pair of power play goals in 22 seconds.
Now down 2-0 in the series, the Sharks face a must-win situation for Game 3 Saturday night.
Leading 3-2 with only a few minutes left in the game, the Sharks looked well on their way to splitting the series. But the tide turned in the Kings’ favor with two penalties against the Sharks and a pair of man advantage goals that allowed the defending Stanley Cup champions to claim a 4-3 victory.
Brad Stuart’s penalty for tripping at 17:19 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s penalty for delay of game — puck over glass — set Los Angeles up for a 5-on-3, where the Kings delivered fatal blows on both power plays.
At 18:17, Dustin Brown scored on the two-man advantage to tie the game at 3-3.
Just 22 seconds later, Trevor Lewis netted the game-winning goal off a rebound from Antti Niemi’s left skate.
A seemingly demoralizing ending was not the final sentiment for Sharks head coach Todd MeLellan:
Sharks Coach Todd McLellan
Video: CSN Bay Area
“We’ve got to get back to San Jose, we’ve got to wake up in the morning and feel good about what we did for 59 minutes. Obviously we don’t want to go down 5 on 3 against a power play. It’s a tough kill but there’s a lot of good to take out of that game … we don’t like the fact that we lost but that’s the bottom line.”
Again, things could have been different had it not been for the last penalty call. In replays from certain angles it appeared that the puck was deflected out of play by Kings center Jeff Carter. Asked if that was what he saw, Vlasic said:
Sharks Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Video: CSN Bay Area
“There we go. It doesn’t matter what I think; it’s over. If he (the referee) saw that then everybody saw that … Unfortunate. We’ll move on to the next game.”
The Sharks didn’t get off to a great start either.
Los Angeles, without Jarett Stoll, who suffered a head injury from Torres’ hit as ruled earlier on Thursday, scored 3:06 in. Carter skated in and his wrister from the right wing, unassisted, put LA on the board 1-0.
Early in the second period, Drew Doughty scored on the power play with a one-timer from the back of the right circle beating Niemi top shelf at 4:10 to give the Kings a two-goal lead.
But the Sharks snapped out of their cold spell at 9:47 in the second period, when Patrick Marleau in the crease, got the perfect centering pass from Joe Thornton for the easy tip in. Thornton saw improvement in one area:
Sharks Center Joe Thornton
Video: CSN Bay Area
“Marleau’s goal was pretty much a power play. It’s getting close. We have to keep banging away, keep shooting. That’s pretty much all you can do.”
Less than five minutes later, the Sharks tied the game at 2-2 with Brad Stuart’s first goal of the playoffs, a shot behind the right circle.
For the first time in the series, San Jose captured the lead against their rivals at 8:56 in the third period when Vlasic tipped in the loose puck just outside the crease.
But then the wheels fell off after the two power play goals by the Kings.
Forward Joe Pavelski told SFBay:
“It was just a tough way to lose it. We had to get of it quick and take a lot of good things out of it. We played them hard and we felt like we carried the pace for most of it. They are a good team, obviously. They found a way tonight.”
The main takeaway for McLellan was that his team got three shots past the Kings’ skilled goalie Jonathan Quick.
Torres’ suspension didn’t help, but McLellan would not dwell on it, telling reporters:
“Raffi is a player that’s worked hard to change his game. Do I think that was anywhere near any of the other hits in his career? Absolutely not.”
Though the Sharks have had their fair share of tough calls this series, Couture remains optimistic.
“The calls will even out eventually.”
McLellan already knows what he’ll tell his team when they meet on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s Game 3 at 6 p.m. at HP Pavilion.
“The most important thing is they’ll know we believe in them. It was a hell of an effort tonight.”
The last time the Sharks were trailing a series 0-2 was the 2011 Western Conference Finals against Vancouver, a series the Sharks lost in five games. … Through the first two games, the Sharks are 0-for-7 on the power play. …F Martin Havlat is out with a lower body injury and hasn’t played since game one against Vancouver. … F Adam Burish sat out for a second game and Bracken Kearns filled in for him once again. … The Kings have won 12 straight at Staples Center.