The Sharks finally found a way to beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick on Thursday night. But San Jose couldn’t overcome two penalties in the final moments and were stunned 4-3 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals at Staples Center.
Los Angeles took a 2 games to 0 lead in the best-of-seven series by scoring two goals during a 22-second span late in the third period to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage and put the Sharks in a hole as the series moves north to San Jose for Game 3 on Saturday night.
The Sharks fell behind 2-0 early in the second period despite holding a substantial advantage in shots and spending a lot of time in the Kings zone. But San Jose finally beat Quick for the first time in the series just after failing to score on the power play when crisp passing by Logan Couture and Joe Thornton resulted in a wide open net for Patrick Marleau, who easily pushed it home to cut the deficit to 2-1.
That seemed to open up the ice for the Sharks, who did a better job creating traffic in front of Quick throughout the night. San Jose ended up scoring three goals in less than 20 minutes to take the lead, with Brad Stuart and Marc-Edouard Vlasic lighting the lamp to give the Sharks the advantage.
The Sharks still held the lead with less than three minutes to go, as goaltender Antti Niemi continually fended off a consistent string of pressure by the Kings in the third period. With Los Angeles on the attack late in the game, Stuart was called for tripping Los Angeles rookie Tyler Toffoli at 17:19. The ensuing power play had barely got started when Vlasic hit the puck into the stands for a delay of game. Suddenly, the Kings had a 5-on-3.
It took Los Angeles 36 seconds with a two-man advantage to score and knot the game. Dustin Brown scored off a rebound from a shot by Mike Richards at 18:17 to make it 3-3. The Staples Center crowd was still celebrating Brown’s goal when Toffoli sped down the ice and threw it off Niemi. The rebound went right to Trevor Lewis on the other side of the crease, and he easily put it past Niemi, who had been lunging the other way to stop the initial try by Toffoli.
In a dizzying 22 seconds, the Sharks were suddenly behind and had just 81 seconds to try to register the equalizer. San Jose pulled Niemi shortly after but couldn’t mount a serious scoring chance.
It will take a dip into the well of mental toughness for the Sharks to recover, but they can be encouraged by the headway they made against Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe Award winner who stymied them with 35 saves in a 2-0 victory in Game 1. The first period was more of the same, as San Jose outshot Los Angeles 11-4 but trailed 1-0. Couture and Joe Pavelski each got good shots off immediately after the Sharks won the game’s opening faceoff, and San Jose kept that pressure on Quick for most of the period.
The game turned for the time being midway through the second period when Couture outraced Alec Martinez for the puck while shorthanded, forcing Martinez into a hooking penalty. San Jose didn’t score during the ensuing 4-on-4 and power play, but Marleau broke through just after that sequence.
That seemed to provide relief more than anything for the Sharks, and the ice opened up a bit. San Jose started to make dents in the Kings’ defense, and tied it up when Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard did good work screening Quick, who didn’t appear to ever see a shot by Stuart. The goal tied the game at 2-2 at 14:21 of the second period.
Vlasic missed the final 4:35 of the second period after taking a shot into the boards by Jeff Carter, who was called for charging. But Vlasic would be heard from again after a shot by Stuart bounced off the boards and trickled back in front of the goal. With Wingels holding off Colin Fraser, Vlasic snuck in and pushed the puck past Quick to give the Sharks a 3-2 advantage.
The Sharks played the game without Raffi Torres, who earlier in the day was suspended for the rest of the series for his it on the Kings’ Jarret Stoll in Game 1.
STAR OF THE GAME: Trevor Lewis. The Kings forward scored the game-winner with 1:21 remaining, completing a power play rush and converting a rebound off a shot by rookie Tyler Toffoli.
GAME DATA: The Kings scored two goals during a stunning 22-second span to take the lead in the third period. … Los Angeles has won 12 straight home games dating back to the regular season. … Quick hadn’t allowed a goal for 125 minutes before Marleau scored in the second period.
INJURY REPORT: Forwards Martin Havlat and Adam Burish, and defenseman Jason Demers are still out with undisclosed injuries for the Sharks. Torres is suspended. Stoll is out with an undisclosed injury for Los Angeles. Along with Vlasic, the Kings’ Anze Kopitar missed a chunk of time in the third period after getting hit in the face with the puck, but was able to return.
TEAM STATS: Shots – SJ 31, LA 31. Faceoffs won – SJ 44, LA 21. Hits – LA 38, SJ 31.
NEXT UP: Game 3 is Saturday night at HP Pavilion. The Sharks are 2-0 at home so far in the postseason.
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