The San Jose Sharks fell to the Los Angeles Kings by the final score of 5-1 and in the process created a bit of history making the Kings only the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 playoff deficit.
After much speculation about who would start for the Sharks this evening it was Antti Niemi who got the call. While Alex Stalock was not to blame for any of the goals in Game 6, Todd McLellan made it known he wanted the former Stanley Cup winner in net. To his credit Niemi palyed well, especially in the first period, but the Kings slowly chipped away.
Also in the lineup tonight was Mike Brown in favor of Martin Havlat who played very well when he was in the lineup. It seemed a curious choice, but the coaching staff probably anticipated a heavy game and wanted Brown for physicality’s sake.
In the first period both teams looked a bit more tentative and seemed like they were the feeling each other out more than anything. Still though the pace was quick. The Los Angeles Kings probably got more of the better scoring chances, but the San Jose Sharks had a couple as well.
Niemi deserved a lot of credit for keeping his team in the game early. Though he only made nine saves, many of them were of the difficult variety. On the other side of the ice Jonathan Quick was equally strong against 14 shots by the Sharks.
In the second period the San Jose Sharks would draw first blood 28 seconds into the period on a Matt Irwin shot from the point. Quick was heavily screened on the play by multiple Sharks and while trying to find the puck the shot got past him.
With the 1-0 lead San Jose looked to extend their lead with a power play chance just minutes later, but instead Patrick Marleau was robbed from point-blank range as Quick extended the glove. Unfortunately for Marleau he had a bouncing puck to corral which gave the L.A. goaltender just enough time to get across his crease in time to make the save.
A few minutes later the Kings scored their first goal of the game on a Drew Doughty shot right after a five-on-three power play had expired. While Tommy Wingels was just leaving the penalty box Doughty fired a rebound on Niemi beating him top-shelf and tying the game at one.
Before the end of the period Los Angeles would strike again, this time on a three-on-two odd-man rush that could have been stopped if the Sharks did not display poor back-checking. Anze Kopitar got the puck in the slot all by himself, made one move on Niemi and scored with a backhander to make give his team the one-goal lead with just over a minute left in the period.
Down 3-1 in the third period the San Jose Sharks got their fifth and sixth power play chances of the game, both of which were quelled by a strong Kings penalty kill. By the end of the night the San Jose power play was 0-6 and was 0-15 with the man-advantage since game 4. Chalk that up as one of the reasons for this colossal collapse.
Still down by two goals and with about three minutes left San Jose pulled Niemi for the extra attacker. Again though the Kings defense stood strong. And, instead of scoring they were scored on. The puck found the back of their net not once but twice, both of which were empty netters.
Even with the man-advantage the Kings looked to be in complete control and did what they were doing all day, block shots. Sure, the Sharks got 11 shots on net in the final period, but a majority of those came in the last three minutes.
In the end the game finished 5-1 and overall this was a textbook Kings win. They controlled the pace of the game from start to finish, got their forecheck going early, and took away possession from the Sharks by being strong in the neutral zone as well as dominating in the faceoff circle.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Anze Kopitar (1 goal, 1 assist, 67% faceoffs)
2. Tanner Pearson (1 goal, 2 assists)
3. Jonathan Quick (39 saves)