Aiming to Get Back to Winning Formula in Game 5
SAN JOSE -- Less than 24 hours after the San Jose Sharks lost 6-3 to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series, Sharks coach Todd McLellan gathered his players Friday afternoon to watch video of that defeat.
McLellan hammered home the same message he delivered late Friday night in his postgame interview at Staples Center: The Sharks' net play wasn't strong enough at either end of the ice.
The Sharks have a 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 series with Game 5 on Saturday at SAP Center (10:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS2, CBC, FS-W, CSN-CA). They are looking to make amends, end the series, and avoid a Game 6 in Los Angeles.
"They are going to the net hard trying to push [goaltender Antti Niemi] in the crease, keep him in the crease," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "We have to box out, get sticks [on pucks] and then on the opposite end go to the net hard on [Kings goaltender Jonathan] Quick and make him uncomfortable. Tip-in goals, rebound goals, that's how we've scored all series. We have to get back to that."
The Sharks won the first three games by a combined score of 17-8 before falling hard Thursday.
"We allowed six goals, so our net play wasn't great," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "We only scored three, so it wasn't good enough in the offensive zone too. We've got to be good in both ends."
Stanley Cup Playoff history says the Sharks are in great shape to advance. Three NHL teams have overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series.
The Sharks also own a decided home-ice advantage against the Kings. San Jose has won five straight home playoff games against Los Angeles, three last year in their second-round series and the first two this year.
"They were desperate," Couture said of the Kings' in Game 4. "We played desperate as well. But it's going to be different coming into our building. Our fans are going to be loud. We have to start well. Hopefully get the first goal and play with the lead."
The Sharks grabbed a 3-0 lead at home in Game 1 and cruised to a 6-3 victory. In Game 2, they fell behind 2-0 in the first period but scored seven unanswered goals in a 7-2 rout.
Vlasic said the Sharks have no reason to be nervous or put undue pressure on themselves.
"We're up 3-1, and we can close it out at home tomorrow," Vlasic said. "So we're in a great situation and guys will be ready to play tomorrow."
The series between these Pacific Division rivals has been physical and heated from the start, but the temperature appeared to go up even higher late in the third period with the Kings in command.
At one point while Sharks forward James Sheppard was scuffling with a Kings player, Los Angeles defensemen Willie Mitchell skated by and popped him in the head. Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins quickly came over the boards and onto the ice to confront Mitchell.
After the final horn, Sharks forward Brent Burns and Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr began trading blows.
The Sharks took five roughing penalties and two five-minute fighting majors in the third period. The Kings took three roughing penalties, one cross-checking minor and two five-minute fighting majors.
Does McLellan expect more scrums and fights Saturday?
"It's funny," he said. "We're talking about what goes on after the whistle. The important stuff goes on between the whistles. That'll certainly be a focus of ours, to make sure we channel our energy and focus between the whistles. We don't have to get involved in that stuff. It's a waste of time and energy. We'll approach the game that way."
McLellan sounded more concerned with the number of power-play chances the Kings have had the past two games. L.A. was 2-for-4 in Game 3 and 1-for-5 in Game 4.
"When you look at some of the penalties we've received, too many of them have occurred in the offensive zone, which is normally where you don't take them," McLellan said. "You normally are drawing penalties when you're in the offensive zone.
"We talked about that after Game 3. You want to play aggressive and you want to play on the edge, but you can't play in the penalty box. Both teams have been guilty of that somewhat. But we'll try and clean that up as well."
Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent