The Sharks will need as much momentum as they can get if they want to become the first visiting team to win a game in their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Los Angeles Kings, and they polished off a 2-1 win in Game 6 with a flurry Sunday night.
San Jose spent the final 30 seconds in the offensive zone despite the fact the Kings had pulled goalie Jonathan Quick, running out the clock and sending a packed Shark Tank into a frenzy as they evened up the series at 3 games apiece.
All three of San Jose’s wins in this series have come by a score of 2-1, and the home team has won all six games. The Sharks will need to snap that trend if they want their season to continue in the pivotal seventh game on Tuesday.
San Jose, which was fully outplayed by Los Angeles in its 3-0 loss in Game 5, set the tone early on by drawing three early Kings penalties. Los Angeles’s Kyle Clifford was called for charging the Sharks’ Patrick Marleau just 1:14 into the game, but San Jose couldn’t muster much of a threat on the ensuing power play. But Los Angeles was called for penalties just 14 seconds apart later, giving the Sharks a 5-on-3 at 4:58 of the third period.
Center Joe Thornton capitalized on the two-man advantage, taking Joe Pavelski’s pass that crossed in front of the goal and poking it into the right corner for a 1-0 lead.
San Jose almost added another just as the power play expired, as Tommy Wingels reeled off a high-percentage shot, which was stopped by Quick. The rebound went right to James Sheppard out in front, but Quick made a terrific save on his attempt to put it back.
The goal on the 5-on-3 was the highlight of an otherwise struggling power play for the Sharks. Midway through the second, the Kings’ Justin Williams was assessed a four-minute penalty when he was called for high-sticking Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. But the Sharks didn’t come close to mounting a serious threat during the power play, although Wingels did have a good shot against Quick just before the man-advantage expired.
The Sharks killed off two penalties in the first period. The Kings put a lot of pressure on San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi on their first attempt with the man-advantage, coming close to scoring when Drew Doughty hit the crossbar. Trevor Lewis and Williams each had point-blank shots that were turned back by Niemi.
The Sharks extended their advantage to 2-0 early in the second period when defenseman Scott Hannan passed the puck up the ice to T.J. Galiardi, with Brent Burns letting it slide by. Galiardi then fired off a shot from the left circle that got past Quick at 4:10. The Sharks got sustained pressure on Quick for the next few minutes after Galiardi’s goal, but couldn’t break through with another score.
Los Angeles cut it to 2-1 at 13:53 of the second when Dustin Brown scored off assists from Matt Greene and Dwight King.
Although the Sharks led 1-0 after the first period, the Kings actually spent more time in the offensive zone and had San Jose on its heels at times. But as the game wore on, the Sharks played better and better at even strength. By the third period, San Jose protected its lead efficiently, forcing Quick into several quality saves with good scoring chances. Niemi was forced to stave off a flurry in front of the crease with about 90 seconds left, but the Sharks once again assumed control to close out the victory.
STAR OF THE GAME:
T.J. Galiardi. The winger scored what proved to be the game-winner and was solid on the ice all night. He almost scored a second goal in the third period when his shot got past Quick but trickled wide.
Niemi made 24 saves. … The Kings have five losses in the postseason, all by a 2-1 score. … According to STATS LLC, the road team is 8-8 in Game 7 in a series in which the home team has won each of the first six games. … While the Kings have won 13 straight home games, they have lost 11 of their last 12 on the road.
The Sharks welcomed Adam Burish back to the active roster after missing the first five games of
the series. Burish was injured in the Sharks’ series-clinching win over Vancouver in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Defenseman Jason Demers, who returned to the lineup in Game 5 after missing more than a month, was a scratch once again in Game 6. Marty Havlat continues to be sidelined with an undisclosed injury. Defenseman Justin Braun was injured early in the first period and played just 47 seconds, but returned for the beginning of the second period. For the Kings, Jarret Stoll is still out after being injured in Game 1 of the series.
Shots – LA 25, SJ 26. Faceoffs won – LA 22, SJ 31. Power Play – LA 0-2, SJ 1-5.
The decisive Game 7 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Sharks won a Game 6 when trailing 3-2 for just the second time in 10 tries. The other time came in a quarterfinal series in 1995 when they beat the Calgary Flames 5-3 in Game 6 at home, then won Game 7 5-4 in two overtimes on the road.
The home team has won each game in this best-of-7 series.
“It’s followed the script,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Home team wins, back and forth, it’s time for us to get there and try and change the story. Obviously, we’re going to have to play a much better game than we did the last time in that building. But they earned the right for home ice. It’s our job to take it away from them.”
The Sharks built a 2-0 lead on the strength of Joe Thornton's 5-on-3 power-play goal early in the first period and TJ Galiardi's even-strength tally early in the second. But Dustin Brown cut the Sharks' lead to 2-1 with a goal late in the second, and that's where the game stood entering the final period.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 25 saves, while the Kings' Jonathan Quick made 23.
"I felt we did a great job right from the start. The boys had good jump,” San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan told NHL Network. “We were aggressive and we didn't sit back. We accepted their push, but I thought the guys gave a great effort tonight."
The Sharks and Kings each had just 17 shots through two periods, and their defensive battle continued in the third.
Niemi stopped a blast from Kings defenseman Slava Voynov with 1:12 left, and the Kings never got another shot, even after pulling Quick and gaining an extra attacker.
The team that scored first has now won all six games in the series, and Thornton did those honors Sunday, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 6:09 of the first period on Thornton's 5-on-3 power-play goal. The Kings' Mike Richards went to the penalty box at 4:44 for hooking Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. Anze Kopitar joined Richards 14 seconds later after sending the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
Planted below the right faceoff circle, Thornton took a cross-crease pass from Joe Pavelski and beat Quick with a wrist shot with 49 seconds still left on the 5-4 power play.
"They won the special teams battles. We took too many penalties,” Kopitar said. “The one 5-on-3 cost us. It's clearly up to me not to fire the puck over the glass."
Thornton's goal ended a Sharks scoring drought of 102 minutes and 14 seconds. They hadn't scored since Logan Couture's power-play goal at 3:55 of the second period in Game 4 at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks entered the game with a power play that ranked No. 1 in the postseason at home (9-for-24, 37.5 percent), but No. 12 on the road (1-for-19, 5.3 percent). The Kings took three penalties in the first period, and San Jose took advantage score its first goal.
The Sharks held the Kings without a goal in the first period despite playing most of the period without defenseman Justin Braun. With just under four minutes gone, Braun needed help off the ice with an apparent left leg injury. But he returned to the bench with under a minute left in the period and returned to the ice in the second period.
The Kings put plenty of pressure on Niemi in the first period. Drew Doughty, Dwight King and Kopitar each hit iron but came away empty.
Galiardi made it 2-0 just 4:10 into the second period with his first goal of the playoffs. Hannan chipped a long pass along the right boards that Galiardi gathered near the blue line. He angled toward the faceoff circle and beat Quick with a wrist shot to his glove side. Hannan and Niemi earned the assists.
“I had lot speed going up,” Galiardi told NBC Sports Network. “Got to get it up on Quick or it's not going in. I just found a hole between [Robyn] Regehr and it got in there.”
The Kings killed off a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Justin Williams, who drew blood from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 7:28 of the second.
Then with 6:07 left in the period, Brown scored on a sharp-angled shot from right of the crease, slicing the Sharks lead to 2-1. Kings defenseman Matt Greene had ripped a long shot from the blue line into heavy traffic, and the puck caromed off bodies to Brown, who scored his third goal of the postseason.
The Sharks had a 15-9 edge in blocks and won 21 of 32 faceoffs (66 percent), but the Kings had outhit San Jose 30-17.
Sharks forward Adam Burish was in the lineup for the first time since breaking his right hand in Game 4 of the Sharks sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the quarterfinals. He skated at right wing on the fourth line and spent time on the penalty kill.
Kings forward Jordan Nolan returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three straight games and replaced rookie Tyler Toffoli on the fourth line.
Entering the game, Quick had a 1.50 goals-against average, a .948 save percentage and three shutouts. He ranked first among playoff goaltenders in all three categories, but the Sharks beat have defeated him three times, all by 2-1 counts.
“Anything can happen in Game 7, especially if we play the way we did tonight,” Galiardi said.