The Sharks were facing elimination for the first time in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And just like the other games against the Los Angeles Kings this year, everyone knew to expect a defensively tight, hard-hitting game that would come down to the wire. And that's exactly what they got.
The Sharks started with a very similar lineup for game six, with one notable exception. Adam Burish returned to the lineup as he made his series debut. He'd skate on the fourth line with Kearns and Desjardins. That meant Jason Demers, who played game five as a forward/seventh defenseman, was scratched. And it looked like that move would come back to bite the Sharks very early on. Justin Braun appeared to injure himself just a few minutes after the drop of the puck. Luckily for San Jose, Braun would return late in the first period. Losing Braun would have been huge. He's been rock solid alongside Vlasic on the team's shutdown pairing.
Beyond the early injury to Braun, the other notable part of the early first period was the penalty trouble the Kings found themselves in. Although the Sharks had trouble entering the zone on their first power play, the Kings gifted the Sharks a five-on-three. And they had no trouble setting up from there. Joe Thornton was ready and waiting down low at the side of the net. The Sharks patiently waited for a seam to open up and they would finally get one. Easy back door goal. 1-0 Sharks. Thornton from Pavelski and Boyle at 6:09 of the first period.
After that goal, the Kings absolutely dominated the rest of the period, with the Sharks going shot-less for nearly 13 minutes to close out the first. The Kings would actually end up outshooting the Sharks 9-8 in the period, and had 3 shots off the post as well, including one of the loudest clanks I've ever heard off a Drew Doughty one-timer.
The second period in San Jose looked eerily similar to the first. The Sharks put on a strong showing early again, with Patrick Marleau nearly getting his second breakaway of the game. It seemed like Todd McLellan and the coaching staff were really trying to exploit the Kings on stretch passes. And it would pay off soon after. T.J. Galiardi would pick up a long breakout pass from Scott Hannan (I know, right!?). T.J. came up the right wing, and wristed one past the glove of Quick on a beautiful snipe. 2-0 Sharks. Galiardi from Hannan and Niemi at 4:10 of the second period.
San Jose was then given 4 minutes of power play time after Justin Williams high-sticked Marc-Edouard Vlasic and drew blood. Unfortunately, the patience that worked for the Sharks 5-on-3 did not work at all here. The Kings killed it off and would again, go on to control the latter part of the period. This time, though, they'd finally find a way to strike. On a shot from the point, Matt Greene's shot went wide, but it deflected to Dustin Brown behind the goal line. He fires it off Niemi and the Kings get up on the board. 2-1 Sharks. Brown from Greene and King at 13:53 of the second period. The Kings would keep putting on a ton of pressure, with the exception of a couple consecutive shifts that resulted in icings. Darryl Sutter would be forced to use his timeout then. That's huge for a game that was sure to be tight until the end.
When the third period started, play was very tight. But yet again, it was the Sharks who had the edge early. But here's where the blueprints finally changed. San Jose went into shutdown mode and executed it beautifully. They clogged up the neutral zone and were tenacious on the forecheck. The Kings were forced to pull Quick, but it didn't matter. The Sharks were able to keep the play in the Kings' half of the ice for the final 30 seconds, and they closed it out.
Your final score from San Jose: Sharks 2, Kings 1. The Sharks win to force game 7!
- A great yeoman's effort from the bottom six. Everyone was working hard, and it seemed like every single one of them ended up with a pretty decent chance to score. James Sheppard would even get rewarded with some power play time.
- There will be a tough lineup decision for the Sharks in game 7. With Braun, Hannan and Boyle all getting a little banged up, it's very tempting to dress Demers as a seventh D. But with the great effort by Kearns tonight, can you take him out?
- Patrick Marleau was using his speed perfectly in this game. He didn't score, but he blazed past the last defender three times for breakaways.
- With his goal, T.J. Galiardi has now scored more playoff goals with the Sharks as Jamie McGinn did. And with fewer boarding penalties. Not too bad of a trade after all, eh?
- The Sharks are 5-2 all-time in game 7's. Just saying.
FTF 3 Stars
1st star: Antti Niemi
2nd star: Joe Thornton
3rd star: T.J. Galiardi
Back at it on Tuesday in LA. The winner heads to the Western Conference Finals. The Sharks hope they can be the first away team to win a game in this series. Go Sharks!