LOS ANGELES—The Kings are one game from pulling off a miraculous comeback rarely seen in the NHL. After being down three games to none, Los Angeles tied the series up forcing a Game 7 with their 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center on Monday night. Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar scored three goals in 2:46 of the third period.
Coach Todd McClellan decided to start second string goaltender Alex Stallock in the hopes that his short playoff career could have a bright future. The Sharks still on the verge to close out the series, opened the first period taking their scoring chances to goaltender Jonathan Quick who has been a major asset for the Kings success.
His performance through five minutes helped turn the tide for LA as they went on the offensive side of the puck. Drew Doughty began a play in the Kings end where a two man play with Williams in lock helped set up the forward near the net as Doughty pass the puck to the left side of Stallock for Williams to notch his third goal of the playoffs. The fans went into a frenzy, as it became the start of positive moments for the Kings.
Before they could celebrate a job on defense had to be worked out, as Andrew Desjardin was on the mission to tie the game. His attempt to rush the net nearly gave the Sharks a goal, but instead he was denied by Quick who took a crash from Desjardin causing a scuffle. Left winger Kyle Clifford took anger towards Desjardin and fought the Sharks center sending both to the box to serve the fighting majors. A cheap hit from Captain Joe Thornton later in the period where he targeted the knee of Kings Captain Dustin Brown gave LA a chance on the power play, but failed to convert. The numbers between both teams were a show that the fight from the Sharks was alive despite being down early.
They would make up for their mistakes as they caught a big break where the team was set up with a 5 on 3 for 90 seconds. That was killed by Quick who denied a pair of shots, sending the crowd into another frenzy after the penalty time expired. The Sharks went 0-7 in the last two games meaning that the man advantage would have to work itself out before the conclusion of the night. Their even strength play didn’t falter as they worked out a play in the Kings zone where a drive from Justin Braun found the stick of teammate James Sheppard near the crease for his second of the playoffs and tying the game up at one. The Sharks nine shots on goal in the period only showed fight was sticking around waiting for their moment to break the hearts of all in attendance.
Tanner Pearson caused trouble for the Kings 86 seconds into the period. He showed Stallock at the crease earning him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was shortly cancelled out setting the game to 4 on 4, but Dan Boyle who interfered with Kopitar. The game took a decent pace between both teams as each took time for puck possession. By the middle of the period, Los Angeles got their game rolling again with the top line patiently setting up a play to work out. During a battle sent into the Sharks crease from Robyn Regehr’s drive, Justin Williams slapped the stick under the pads of Stallock to give the puck further motion to cross the line and give Los Angeles the lead. The Sharks protested on the call, but since the whistle was never blown. the ref gave the signal for a good goal.
San Jose’s frustrations became food for the Kings offense that fought for possession in their zone. Kopitar began a run where the stretch pass set up a 2 on 2 with center skating behind. On a shot to the net from Dwight King, Kopitar caught the rebound and fired a wrist shot to score and give the Kings a two-goal margin. The alternate captain playing the lead role helped out 1:15 later during a power play. He caught possession of a rebound from Alec Martinez notching his second of the night and further sending the crowd into a lengthy moment of insanity.
The reality hit the Sharks fast as they were left with a huge hole to dig themselves out from under. They failed to do so, instead causing the Kings to fight back as Mike Richards showed on Logan Couture and Williams against Raffi Torres. All four players took fighting majors with Torres and Williams earning game misconducts. The Sharks Captain made the wrong mistake going after Quick with two minutes left as he interfered on a play that inevitably sent him to the box. King took offense to that and went afterThornton with good reason. Both teams got out of hand with Desjardins getting into it with Jarret Stoll and Brent Burns earning a game misconduct along with Desjardins. In the four minute span, a total of 74 minutes were racked up between the two teams but the numbers didn’t change the score.
The Kings closed out the period still standing high above the Sharks, as they would both meet on Wednesday for the pivotal conclusion to this Western Conference quarterfinal. If Los Angeles pulls off the feat, they will become just the fourth team to come back from a 3-0 deficit and the second straight to do so. Last year the Boston Bruins (who went to the Stanley Cup Final) came back from 0-3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs pulling out a deficit in Game Seven to win the series. Although the Kings haven’t been down recently they still have one game left to play which will determine their playoff future.