Kings score two late power-play goals to stun Sharks 4-3 in Game 2
L.A. grabs 2-0 lead in best-of-seven West semifinal series
LOS ANGELES -- It was bound to happen.
The puck-over-the-glass rule -- delay of game to the San Jose Sharks, close enough to be less than 100 per cent certain it wasn’t deflected -- handed the Los Angeles Kings a lifeline Thursday night, and they grabbed it with both hands.
A National Hockey League playoff game decided by a ticky-tack penalty?
“Sometimes, good teams win games when they don’t deserve it, too,” said Kings’ Anze Kopitar, nursing a sizable line of stitches in his upper lip but feeling no pain after goals 22 seconds apart in the 59th minute by captain Dustin Brown and third-liner Trevor Lewis snatched a possibly unwarranted victory from the jaws of a thorough defeat, giving the Kings a stunning 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven West semifinal.
“We pulled it out of our behinds this time,” said Kopitar. “We realize it wasn’t our best effort. But we shouldn’t have been in that position.”
The position was down 3-2 to a Sharks team that had owned much of the territorial play and most of the best scoring chances.
Only in the last few minutes did the Kings dig in and flood the offensive zone with bodies and muscle and will. The first Sharks penalty, to defenceman Brad Stuart for tripping Tyler Toffoli, gave the home side a glimmer of hope.
But when Vlasic’s clearing attempt sailed over the glass -- replays were inconclusive, but one angle appeared to show the puck fluttering off the shoulder of Kings’ Jeff Carter -- the door was wide open.
“Well, that’s what happens if you put pressure on them,” said Kopitar. “Last five minutes, we were in there, cycling the puck, and we’ve got to do that for the 55 minutes before that.”
On the 5-on-3, Brown’s goal came off a rebound after Sharks’ Logan Couture failed to clear the zone and the puck hit Drew Doughty and stayed in. That tied the game with 1:43 left. Now 4-on-3, Lewis’s game-winner came when he shook off the coverage of Joe Pavelski and potted Toffoli’s rebound, leaving the Sharks shell-shocked and angry.
“I think I almost passed out on the celebration, I got a little light-headed,” Lewis said. “But no, to score a big goal in the playoffs is what you dream about.”
Getting beat that way was no dream for the Sharks, who surely deserved better than to be down 2-0 heading home for Game 3 on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter what I say about the last play. It happened and it’s over with,” said Vlasic. “What’s done is done. It’s unfortunate. We move on to the next game.”
“You go back and look at it, it looks like it changed direction,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “One thing I learned certainly throughout these playoffs, it’s not going to do me any good to get up here and whine and moan and bitch about the refereeing. Because it’s not going to get us anywhere. We took some penalties and we needed to kill them. And we move on.”
Kopitar was struck squarely in the face by a Dustin Brown shot early in the third period, but returned, stitched up, after missing a couple of shifts. When he leaped over the boards, the theme from Rocky played on the sound system.
Asked if he thought that gave his teammates a lift, the ever-stoic Kopitar said: “I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. If they did or not, we got the job done.”
The win, at any rate, “helped take the sting away (from his wound.) We hadn’t scored a power play goal in the playoffs at home yet, and to do it twice in the last two minutes is huge.”
The Sharks dominated long stretches of the first two periods, but it took until midway through the second to get their first goal of the series past Jonathan Quick, and even then, it took a dizzying sequence of four perfect touches, tic-tac-toe style -- Dan Boyle to Couture to Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau for the tap-in -- to get the Kings’ goalie sufficiently out of position to let one in.
Less than five minutes later, they tied the game on a Stuart rocket from the right point, through a lineup of bodies obscuring Quick’s view, pretty much a carbon copy of the Drew Doughty goal that had given the Kings a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
The Sharks were all over the Kings’ end of the ice from the opening puck drop right up to the moment, 3:06 in, when Jeff Carter found himself dangling down the right wing, unchecked, and snapped a shot from the top of the circle that beat Antti Niemi, who misplayed the angle.
The Finnish netminder was also not very close to the correct line to stop Doughty’s blast from the point that found all kinds of room high to Niemi’s blocker side, but given the mass of humanity in front of him, he might not have seen it anyway.
Vlasic, who earlier had been plastered into the end boards by Carter, returned to score what looked as though it might be the game-winner for the Sharks at 8:56 of the third, sweeping home a puck that lay at the corner of the crease after Stuart’s shot missed the net.
But it wasn’t to be.
Perhaps at home, the Sharks will get a little of their own back.
“Maybe in the past this would have probably bothered our team a little bit more,” McLellan said. “But with the group of guys we have, we can recover from this. It was a hell of an effort tonight from our group.”
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