Sharks triumph over Kings 6-3, take commanding 3-1 series lead home to San Jose

The San Jose Sharks continued right where they left off on Tuesday night, spanking the Kings 6-3 in front of a disappointed Staples Center crowd, giving themselves an opportunity to close out the series at home Saturday night.

Ryane Clowe had a pair, while Jason Demers, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Torrey Mitchell all added tallies for the Sharks to give the team a nice spread of goals throughout their lineup.

The first period was a run and gun affair, with both teams trading chances early and often as Antti Niemi and Jonathan Quick did their best to rebound from the red light affair that populated most of game two. San Jose had a brilliant chance to do some damage midway through the frame as Dustin Brown and Matt Greene took back to back minor penalties, putting the Sharks on a 5 on 3 powerplay at 8:34 in the period. But despite some excellent movement off the puck, and a willingness to drive down low to the net and muscle up in front, Quick stood strong. Joe Pavelski received a centering feed from Joe Thornton that saw Quick make an excellent post to post save, and Dany Heatley was stymied as well when he got a clean look at the net between the circles. The Sharks would get another chance when Joe Thornton stripped the puck off of Drew Doughty as he exited the zone, setting up a two on one with Patrick Marleau. Thornton's cross ice feed would be for naught however, as Quick would lunge across his crease to snag the shot with a brilliant glove hand.

Los Angeles would counter attack following the kill, putting the pressure on Niemi for some consistent shifts in a row. Los Angeles would also receive a 5 on 3 power play later in the period, but much like Quick's brilliance in the Sharks offensive zone, Niemi was just as strong for the Sharks. A diving stop across his crease stood out as his most impressive stop, leaving the Sharks and Kings scoreless through twenty.

Just as we saw Tuesday night however the Gatorade in both locker rooms seemed to be spiked with a more potent blend of electrolytes during intermission, as both teams would come out and register a combined five goals between them.

San Jose would get on the board first. After a 3 on 2 opportunity was broken up, Clowe whipped the puck on net from the sideboards where it careened off a Kings skate into the net, giving the Sharks their first regulation lead of the series since game one.

And 1:14 later the Sharks would strike again. Off the rush Logan Couture corralled a loose puck at his feet, swinging it to his backhand and sending a perfectly timed and placed pass over to the stick of Jason Demers who was crashing the net. The San Jose defenseman, who has been having an excellent series thus far, gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead.

One they wouldn't be content to sit on, at least for the time being.

With Matt Greene in the box for four minutes after getting rung up by virtue of a high sticking double minor that drew blood from Scott Nichol, San Jose's power play would get to work. Unless the first period the Sharks squandered the majority of their man-advantage time, struggling with entries into the zone and getting pucks to the net. Clowe would erase those struggles three minutes in however, tapping in a loose puck in front that Couture had put on net.

No lead in a Staples Center second can be considered safe, and that's just the situation San Jose found themselves in following their goal. Brad Richardson would capitalize on a poor play by Niclas Wallin that saw him fruitlessly dump the puck into the neutral zone during a Sharks breakout. Yet another neutral zone turnover, this one coming from Jamal Mayers, would allow the Kings to slink back within striking distance. A 2 on 2 towards the San Jose zone ended up in the back of the net, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic (who played Smyth perfectly) unfortunately tapped the puck into his own net for the score.

Whatever momentum Los Angeles could have gained from their comeback was quickly erased by San Jose early in the third. With the way this series has gone the Sharks likely considered the fact that at least one more goal was necessary to pick up the win, but they got two for the price of one as both Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski added tallies to extend the lead to 5-2. Kyle Wellwood executed a beautiful behind the net pass to Joe Thornton in front, giving the Sharks Captain his first goal of the series, and Pavelski would just get enough of a Dan Boyle point shot to change the angle and put it past the Kings Quick.

Torrey Mitchell would extend the lead to four later in the period, and although San Jose would struggle with turnovers and discipline later in the game which ended up spotting the Kings a goal, the Sharks would go on to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Some other abbreviated thoughts from tonight's game:

  • Jason Demers continued his impressive physical play this series, and all-around game overall. He's really stood out as a player who has matured since last season and has been a very reliable defenseman that McLellan has been able to count on. Of note, an excellent hip check to Dustin Brown in the first period brought back memories of Rob Blake, something that Kings and Sharks followers alike were bound to recognize.
  • Credit goes to Scott Nichol for a pair of two fourth line drawn calls that put the team at an advantage. In the first period he received a coinciding minor with Drew Doughty after giving him a bump at center ice, and in the second he drew a four minute power play for San Jose after mucking it up in front of the net and taking a shot in the face from Matt Greene. McLellan spoke about the importance of getting his fourth line back and engaged before the game tonight-- that's exactly what San Jose is going to need out of the scrappy Nichol.
  • Despite the score, San Jose didn't play a perfect game by any means-- they dominated the scoreboard, but were outshot badly at even strength by a 2:1 margin (14 for SJS, 29 for LAK). Although that may be partially due to their leads in the middle of the second and to at the beginning of the third, there still remains a lot of work to be done.
  • I was surprised that the Kings decided to play run and gun for the second straight night-- with San Jose's forward depth Murray and his club have to realize that getting into a game dominated by special teams and high goal totals is going to work in the Sharks favor. Although Los Angeles did a better job than game two in restricting San Jose opportunities in front of the net at evens, the pace from the opening faceoff was frantic. If LA expects to win game five in front of an HP Pavilion crowd whipped into a manic frenzy by the face-melting guitar licks of Metallica, they're going to need to tone it down and start playing conservative hockey. Something that a road game could reinforce.
  • Who did Joe Thornton blow a kiss to after his goal? Purdy assures me it wasn't a Kardashian sister-- maybe Cuba Gooding Jr.?
  • The strobe lights in the penalty box can grate the nerves (not to mention pose a danger to any epileptic opposing player that gets called for a penalty), but start times at Staples Center have to be pushed back at least five minutes each night when David Gaines takes the ice to sing the National Anthem. Strange.
  • As we mentioned earlier today, the higher seeded team win their series 92.3% of the time after taking a 3-1 lead. Tonight was huge.