It was a series to remember.
Coming in, it seemed that everyone predicted the Stanley Cup Playoff quarter-final series between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks to go the distance, to a game seven. That is exactly what happened, but in the most dramatic way possible, with the Kings making history.
The Sharks had home-ice advantage over their California rival, and thus, the SAP Center at San Jose was the site for Game One of the series. The Sharks’ home crowd powered them to three first period goals, and by the end of the second period, San Jose was up 5-0 on the Kings, with five different goal-scorers. Los Angeles showed up in the third, rattling off three consecutive goals, but that was as close as they would come, as Brent Burns sealed a 6-3 win with an empty-net goal.
Game Two of the series started in the exact opposite way of Game One, but by the end, it was the same result. The Kings were the team leading after 20 minutes of play, holding a 2-0 lead with Jake Muzzin and Trevor Lewis both scoring their second goals in two games. However, it was all downhill from there for the visiting team. The Sharks’ fourth line erased the deficit with two goals on two consecutive shifts from Mike Brown and Raffi Torres, and five goals later, the Sharks walked off the ice with a 7-2 victory, and the 2-0 series lead. The Kings were defeated by the largest margin of the entire first round, in a game where goaltender Jonathan Quick was in the net for all seven Sharks goals.
The Kings headed home to the Staples Center desperate to find momentum in the series in Game Three. San Jose led 1-0 after one period of play, but two quick goals by Jarret Stoll and Marian Gaborik had L.A. in front early in the second. The Sharks tied the game just minutes later with a goal from Matt Nieto, and the two teams would head to the third period locked at 2. In the dying seconds of a second-period penalty, Jeff Carter scored less than a minute into the third, re-gaining the Kings lead. Tomas Hertl brought the Sharks back even with his second of the series, and the game headed to overtime. Patrick Marleau‘s back-hand shot deflected off of a Kings defenseman and into the goal, giving the Sharks the road win, and a 3-0 series lead.
At this point in the series, it seemed the wind was out of the Kings’ sails. Three straight losses, including a loss in the Staples Center, had the Kings facing a daunting task: become the ninth team to erase a 0-3 series lead, and to move on, join the ’42 Toronto Maple Leafs, ’75 New York Islanders, and ’10 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams to win four straight games after trailing by three games.
That’s exactly what they did.
The Kings came on the ice for Game Four with their season on the line, and after one period, they were no closer, tied 1-1. After a three-goal third period, Los Angeles held their first lead after 40 minutes in the series, and this time, it was not to be given away. Marian Gaborik made it a 5-2 game just 30 seconds into the third, and captain Dustin Brown scored his first goal of the series in the empty-net, booking a 6-3 Kings win.
The series traveled back to the Bay Area for Game Five, as the Sharks looked to close out at home. Just 8:09 into the first period, Tyler Tofolli’s second goal of the series would stand as the game-winner, as Jonathan Quick stopped 30 shots-on-goal, and the Kings cruised to a 3-0 win. Jeff Carter‘s power-play goal in the second period meant the end of the night for Antti Niemi, who stopped 16 of 19, and Alex Stalock made his debut, staying perfect in his first 39 minutes of playoff action.
It was back to Hollywood for the Kings and Sharks, as Los Angeles was still behind the 8-ball, trailing 2-3 in the series. A goal by Justin Williams in the first period and James Sheppard in the second frame saw the two teams tied heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. After 10 minutes of back-and forth play, Williams scored his second of the game, after the puck squirted under Alex Stalock, and was pushed into the net. In one of the most controversial calls of the entire first round, the goal stood against the “intent to blow” rule, and the Kings took a 2-1 lead. Anze Kopitar finished the game with two consecutive goals, and the Kings tied the series 3-3 with a 4-1 win, as Jonathan Quick made several spectacular saves to protect the lead.
Game Seven took place on the final night of the first round. The Kings were on the verge of fame; the Sharks: infamy. After a first period in which both Antti Niemi and Jonathan Quick were perfect, Matt Irwin scored just 28 seconds into the second period to give the Sharks the lead. It wasn’t built to last, however, as Drew Doughty blasted a power-play goal by Niemi just four minutes later. Anze Kopitar scored his fourth goal of the series before the period was out, and the Kings took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. The Sharks seemingly had no gas in the third period, and as soon as Justin Williams scored less than five minutes in, the writing was on the wall. The Kings added two empty-net goals, as they pulled off the miracle comeback, defeating the Sharks 5-1, and winning the series 4-3.
Jonathan Quick wasn’t his normal self in the first three games of the series, with a 0.851%save percentage. However, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner rebounded in typical form, with a save percentage of .962% in the four Kings’ wins.
“There’s a lot of proud moments in the organization and probably some that were not so good before, but it’s as low as it’s been for me and for the players that have been together for the six years that I’ve been here, tt’s a very easy one to answer. I’m in charge. I’m responsible for the group that performs on the ice. I have to accept that responsibility.”
The Kings are off to a date with the Anaheim Ducks, their first-ever meeting in the playoffs. Game One of that series goes on Saturday, May 3rd, at 7:00 PM Central Time.
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