Game 4; SJ leads series 3-1
LOS ANGELES - They entered Thursday's contest hoping to avoid being swept for the first time since 2000 but the Los Angeles Kings did a bit more than that in Game 4 as they changed up their lines and got a bit feistier as they handed the San Jose Sharks their first loss this postseason. It may not get any easier for the 2012 Cup champs as they return to Northern California on Saturday but Thursday's win was just what they needed to force a fifth game.
The Kings jumped out in front with an earlu lead as Marian Gaborik swatted one home at 4:08 to send the Staples Center faithful roaring. The goal was set up by captain Dustin Brown who recorded his first point of the playoffs. Slava Voynov helped out with the second assist.
The Kings still hung in despite getting outshot in the period. Unfortunately for them, the Sharks were able to tie with just eight seconds to go in the first, deflating the Staples faithful entering the intermission. James Sheppard slapped his first past Jonathan Quick to knot it up.
But Los Angeles got that right back in the second. On the power play, Justin Williams shoved in his second to regain the lead. Mike Richards, who hasn't appeared on the scoresheet in what feels like forever, added an assist along with Jake Muzzin. But again, San Jose answered.
Four-and-a-half minutes after Williams helped take the lead, the hometown boy Matt Nieto tied it with his second is as many nights. The Kings, however, were not to be outdone.
In a period where they actually outshot the Sharks (13-11), the Kings regained the lead once again (courtesty of Justin Williams's second) before tacking on some insurance thanks to Tyler Toffoli's wrister with 59 seconds to go in the second. Then, for good measure, Marian Gaborik scored his second of the night just 34 seconds into the third - from Selke nominee Anze Kopitar - to make it 5-2. That spelled the end of Antti Niemi's night as the netminder was pulled in favour of Alex Stalock.
Joe Pavelski did score on the power play to make it 5-3 but Dustin Brown iced it with an empty-netter - his first of the playoffs - and that was that. The Los Angeles Kings live to fight another day but not before an abundance of chippiness and hard feelings were exchanged in this always-hostile Battle of California.
But what was lost in all of this was the milestone Jonathan Quick reached. As a result of the win, Quick notched his 30th-career postseason win, making him the new franchise leader in said category. The milestone is especially fitting considering that this was by far No. 32's best performance in this series as he turned away 36 saves - 11 in the third - to preserve the win.
The bounces may have gone in San Jose's favour for the first three games but on Thursday, they went in Los Angeles's favour and, as great as that is, fans can only hope for the same on Saturday. Then, the series shifts back to the SAP Center where the Kings will look to cheat death for at least one more game as they gun for their first road win this postseason.