Game 5; SJ leads series 3-2
SAN JOSE - If the Los Angeles Kings were hoping to extend this series even further, they would need to do it in a building where they were outscored 13-5 in the opening two games of this series. At the SAP Center in the first two games, the Kings were outshot and outhit in addition to being outscored. Their defense was surprisingly below par and the always-reliable Jonathan Quick allowed a total of 12 goals. In Game 5, the Kings needed a huge turnaround against the San Jose Sharks. They got just that on Saturday night.
Whatever possessed the Sharks to dominate Los Angeles so easily in Games 1 and 2 was nowhere to be found on this night, at least not very early. At the 8:09 mark, the Kings drew first blood thanks to a great passing play from Tanner Pearson to Tyler Toffoli who cashed in for his second tally in as many games, beating Antti Niemi stick-side. Then, at the 12:52, Anze Kopitar rushed to the San Jose net where he potted his first of the playoffs to give the silver-and-black the two-goal lead. Dustin Brown assisted on the goal which gives the captain three points in two games.
Despite the cushion, Los Angeles fans were reluctant as they remembered what happened the last time they were up 2-0 in San Jose. The Sharks stormed back with seven unanswered goals to win convincingly. But those anticipated deja vu wouldn't get it on this night.
After a first period that saw the Kings set the tone by outshooting the Sharks 18-6, they extended their lead right off the bat in the second.
Just 22 seconds into the middle frame, Jeff Carter backhanded a shot off San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart and in to make it 3-0. The goal, Carter's second, came on the power play and, for the second time in as many games, spelled the end of Antti Niemi's night.
After allowing three goals on 19 shots, Niemi was pulled in favour of Alex Stalock. While Stalock was sharp, the same couldn't be said for the offensive attack in front of him.
While the Kings did outshoot San Jose again in the second (13-10), the Sharks seemed to turn a corner in the last five minutes of the period as they pressured the Los Angeles defense to stand strong. They did as did Jonathan Quick who made a number of key saves to keep the three-goal lead intact entering the intermission.
In the third, it was San Jose doing the outshooting 14-10 but again, Quick nor his defensive unit were not having any of it, making key saves and even avoiding trouble thanks to a few lucky bounces in their favour.
The Kings couldn't score again but it didn't matter as their defense and their goaltender played just the way their fans always expect them to play: phenomenal. In fact, outside of a couple of questionable penalties, the silver-and-black really could not have played a better all-around game than they did on Saturday, which left the SAP Center faithful booing their own team multiple times during the game, including jeering them off the ice after the final buzzer.
To make matters worse, San Jose's veteran defenseman Dan Boyle got very defensive and angry with a reporter post-game for being asked if the Sharks had the mindset of having a few mulligans when they were leading the series 3-0.
Nevertheless, this was the win the Los Angeles Kings really needed as not only did they win in San Jose but they shut out the Sharks in what some classify as the loudest, most hostile building in the National Hockey League. Assuming that is true, the Los Angeles Kings did one heck of a job defusing that energy.
They were down three games to none, but thanks to back-to-back wins, suddenly the pressure is on San Jose Sharks who must now enter enemy territory on Monday night when this series shifts back to Staples Center.