STAPLES CENTER — Being declared as a Lady Byng award finalist gave Patrick Marleau a sweet taste in his mouth heading into Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings.
But scoring the overtime goal to send his team home with a 3-0 series advantage took the whole cake.
In a building where the San Jose Sharks have been dominated in recent history — going 0-10-1 in their past 11 games — Marleau’s overtime strike and goals from rookies Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto lifted the Sharks past the Kings in a hard-fought 4-3 overtime victory.
After the game, coach Todd McLellan acknowledged the importance of being up 3-0 in the series:
“It’s been a long time. We have to do it again, but its never easy. They’re a good team. They play hard, they play well, they do a lot of things right, so they very rarely beat themselves. You have to play a pretty good game to beat them.”
San Jose got on the board early in the first period after a tripping penalty by Dwight King gave them the man advantage.
Center Joe Thornton sent a cross-ice pass to Brent Burns who wristed a knuckleball over goaltender Jonathan Quick’s shoulder for the first goal of the game. Dan Boyle was also credited with an assist.
The Kings answered back in the second period by converting their first power play opportunity of the series — and third of the game, as center Jarret Stoll sent a one-timer from the face-off circle top-shelf to put the Kings on the board.
While the Sharks were struggling to get shots off early in the second, Marian Gaborik, whom the Kings acquired mid-season from Columbus, sprinted up the boards on a 3-2 break to take it all the way to the net, shoveling it past Niemi for the unassisted goal to put his team up 2-1.
The Sharks tied it up later in the frame at two a piece as local boy Matt Nieto — who hails from Long Beach — tipped in Jason Demers’ shot from the point as Quick was tied up with teammate Robyn Regehr in the net.
Marleau continued his points streak after being credited with an assist on the play as well.
Although he was crucial in helping the Sharks advance to their commanding 3-0 series lead, Nieto doesn’t expect the Kings to go down quietly:
“We can expect the same type of game. They’re not gonna want to lose four straight, so we’re gonna have to prepare just like we did for this game and come out strong.”
The third period opened up much like the second for the Kings.
With seconds left on a power play against the Sharks that carried over from the end of the second, Forward Jeff Carter tipped an Anze Kopitar pass from the point up and over the head of Niemi — who couldn’t see the deflected puck — to put them back up a score at 3-2.
But Tomas Hertl, whose feelings on Los Angeles were made hilariously apparent prior to the series, silenced the source of his disdain by muscling a wrist shot past Quick in the paint off a blocked attempt from Tommy Wingels from the circles, tying the game up once again at three a piece.
When the Sharks got a chance to close out the game after a careless interference penalty on Jarret Stoll with 1:58 left in the period, the Kings’ solid penalty kill was able to hold strong, sending the two teams to overtime for the first time in the series.
The Kings came into overtime looking a team determined, and rattled off six shots on Niemi before the Sharks were able to get a clean look at the opposing goal.
Sensing a possible collapse, coach Todd McLellan called a timeout, which seemingly regrouped and stabilized the shaky Sharks:
“I just told our guys to settle down a little bit and play the way we can …Tired players didn’t really manage the neutral zone real well. In fact the only time we got the puck behind them [we scored].”
The Sharks were composed on the ice after the timeout. After getting the puck down ice into the Kings zone, Joe Pavelski tipped a pass to Marleau in the middle of the face-off circle for a beautiful backhanded wrist shot that found back of the net for the win.
The win marked the fifth consecutive playoff win in sudden death overtime for the Sharks. It also put their rivals’ backs to the wall heading into a now must-win Game 4 for the Kings.
The Sharks can finish the sweep Thursday as they return to action at Staples Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.