Sharks not in a happy place, won’t look to history for help in 0-2 series deficit to Kings
L.A. Kings Jeff Carter (left) and Mike Richards (right) help celebrate captain Dustin Brown’s power-play goal with 1:43 left in the third period of Game 2 of the Kings-San Jose Sharks second-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings scored again 22 seconds later to pull out a 4-3 victory for a 2-0 series lead.
Photograph by: Evan Gole, NHLI via Getty Images
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The numbers don’t look good.
In their checkered history, the San Jose Sharks have been down 0-2 in a playoff series nine times before this, and they’re 0-for-9, having never even got as far as a Game 7 in any of them.
You might say, then, that blowing that 3-2 lead in the final two minutes Thursday night at Staples Center, giving up two power-play goals to lose a game they had in their pocket, is the difference between a heck of a series with the Los Angeles Kings and impending doom.
You might say that. Just don’t do it in front of Darryl Sutter.
The Kings’ mood-swingy coach — as capable of being charmingly folksy as he is of snapping a curt two-word answer to a question (or questioner) he regards as stupid — is, at the moment, The Enemy Of History.
What’s past has no meaning to now. And stats are for losers ... except for the stats he likes, like minutes and head-to-head matchups and faceoffs and special teams time.
But mentioning the Kings’ 2-0 lead heading to San Jose’s raucous HP Pavilion for Saturday’s third game just makes him grouchy.
“We’ve had that experience in these playoffs already,” he said Friday, at an optional practice prior to the team’s flight to San Jose.
“We were down 2-0 (to St. Louis) in the last series. We were out of the series, we were down 2-0 early in Game 3 or 4, and out of the game.”
And we all know how that turned out.
“That’s what playoffs are about,” he said. “It’s sort of frustrating answering those questions.
“Our playoffs are four-out-of-seven series. Generally, if you break it down, most go six games, which means somebody wins four and, if you do your math right, that means they lose two. You don’t win every period, you don’t win every shift and you don’t win every game.”
To recap: the Kings trailed 3-2, and deservedly so, until Brad Stuart — one of the three present-day Sharks (along with Patrick Marleau and defenceman Scott Hannan) who played for Sutter in his San Jose days — was whistled for tripping rookie Tyler Toffoli on a scoring chance in the final two minutes. Seconds later, another Sharks rearguard, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, shot the puck over the glass in the defensive zone, though it might or might not have touched Kings’ Jeff Carter as it left the rink — and on the 5-on-3, Dustin Brown batted in a rebound in the goalmouth. Stuart came back on, but 22 seconds later, Trevor Lewis converted a big rebound of Toffoli’s shot on goalie Antti Niemi, and the Kings had turned their own certain defeat into a soul-sucking San Jose loss.
However bravely the Sharks may have portrayed it — notably, that at least they had got three goals past Jonathan Quick, proving he wasn’t Superman — a loss was a loss, and 0-2 is 0-2, and that isn’t the Sharks’ happy place.
The Kings aren’t putting a lot of credence into the idea that the San Jose shooters have finally gotten to Quick, though.
“Well, last series, everybody said they’d figured him out,” Sutter said.
“First off, if you score three goals you should win. In the playoffs, that is a fact. But a big part of their success, clearly is the power play. Last night they scored five seconds after the power play was over, so really that counts as one. Name of the game was special teams.”
Quick didn’t attend the skate, so he wasn’t around to defend himself, but goaltending coach Bill Ranford said there is no rocket science to beating a goaltender, however special he might be.
“If they’re talking about solving Jon Quick, then he’s doing his job,” he said. “We’re trying to do the same thing, we’re trying to get to the other goalie and the way you do that is old-fashioned hard work, bodies in front — it’s the same game plan for every one of the eight teams that are left.
“We had a good third period. But we’re very fortunate we’re where we are right now when you play one out of six good periods in a playoff series, when you’re going up against a quality guy like Niemi.”
The Kings have spent an inordinate amount of time in the first two games chasing the play, but Quick was other-worldly in Game 1, and good enough in Game 2, when Niemi misplayed a couple of angles and couldn’t shut the door in the end.
“It was a tough way to lose the game but I think we're trying to take the positives out of it and move forward, because that's all we can do, I guess, at this point,” said Stuart. “There's a lot of good things we can draw upon. And we just move on. We've gotta win our home games.”
All those Sharks teams that got down 0-2 and couldn’t reverse the flow are not this team, said coach Todd McLellan.
“We're a looser group. I don't want to say not as mature — sometimes that works in your favour — but just a different group,” he said. “There weren't many lips hanging today, and that hasn't always been the case. I think guys are excited about getting back out there and playing.”
“We did a lot of really good things,” said Logan Couture, the best Sharks forward in their first-round sweep of Vancouver, but quiet so far in this series. “I thought we deserved to win that game, but we didn't. We're down 2-0, time to come into our building. It's going to be loud. The fans are going to be into it.”
Sutter knows that as well as anyone, having coached in the Shark Tank for five-and-a-half seasons, and visited there countless times with the Blackhawks, Flames and now Kings.
He remembers that home ice, in San Jose, really was an advantage ... “once we became a good team,” he said, grinning. “That’s where it makes a difference. It’s one of the unique buildings that’s right on top of you. Everybody makes a big deal about home ice but a lot of these buildings now are generic, just different colours. But that’s one of the old ones, one of the smaller buildings that has a way of holding the noise in, and that’s still one of the fun parts.’
The circumstances of Thursday’s lucky escape for the Kings — and crushing defeat for the Sharks — are as irrevocable as the final score.
McLellan said he was expecting to be asked about the coach’s challenge flag, NFL-style, that was proposed for the NHL to review controversial calls.
“I was reaching last night, but I didn't have one,” he said.
“But we're always going to err on the side of what favours us. In that case, in this moment, today, yeah, I'd love to use that little red flag. But we can't review everything. We can't stop the game every 30 seconds for a stick infraction or whatever it might be. I don't know if I'm for or against that idea. Today, I am. Tomorrow, I might not be.”
Tomorrow might be all there is, if the Sharks don’t win.
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