|LAK Lead Series 2 - 0|
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings blew an early two-goal lead. They saw their top scorer miss nearly half the third period after taking a puck in the mouth. They were annihilated in the faceoff circle.
None of that mattered after power-play goals by Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis 22 seconds apart in the final 1:43 turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
The Kings blew an early 2-0 lead as the Sharks scored twice in the second period and grabbed the lead on defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic's goal midway through the third.
But the defending Stanley Cup champions didn't panic -- and they made the most of their opportunities in the final minutes of regulation after Brad Stuart was called for tripping with 2:41 remaining and Vlasic flipped the puck into the crowd 22 seconds later for a delay of game penalty.
With the Kings skating 5-on-3, Brown tied the game at 18:17 when he went to the net and knocked the puck past Antti Niemi after Jeff Carter put a shot on goal. Lewis won it when he slammed home a rebound after rookie Tyler Toffoli drove down the right side and fired a shot off Niemi's pads during the 5-on-4 power play.
"I almost passed out in the celebration there," Lewis said. "I got a little light-headed. It's good to score a big goal in the playoffs. It's what you dream about."
It's the kind of game that confident, experienced teams find a way to win -- and right now, that description fits the Kings to a T.
"I've said this before, experience is one thing and it's another thing to have all that experience together as a group of guys, because that goes a long way when you get yourself in a hole," Brown said. "We didn't play a great game tonight but we found a way to win and that's the important thing. We've got to get back to playing our game if we want to continue to have success against the Sharks."
Game 3 is Saturday night at HP Pavilion (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Kopitar took a puck to the face on Brown's shot 42 seconds into the third period but returned midway through to loud cheers from the Staples Center crowd, which turned into full roar when the streamers came down from the rafters. The comeback came in L.A.'s first game without center Jarret Stoll, who was knocked out in Game 1 on an illegal hit from Raffi Torres – who was suspended for the series earlier in the day.
The Sharks destroyed the Kings in the faceoff circle – San Jose won 44 of 65 draws – but it didn't matter. The Kings won their 12th straight home game since March and their sixth straight postseason game.
"It's a roller coaster, but when you go through the experience of everything we did last year, you keep your emotions in check," Brown said. "Even when that happens, you know there's a lot of work still to do."
San Jose last faced 0-2 series deficit in the 2011 Western Conference Finals against the Vancouver Canucks. Coach Todd McLellan put an optimistic face on a mostly solid game by his team and said he didn't give a postgame talk.
"I liked our game," McLellan said. "We'll meet at the rink and I'll tell our team that. The thing I like about our team -- maybe in the past this would have bothered our team more, but with the group of guys we have I think we can recover from this. I think we can get out and play hard again."
Vlasic's clearing attempt might have hit Carter's shoulder on the way out. The veteran defenseman wouldn't comment on the play but seemed to suggest it did hit Carter.
"It doesn't matter what I think," Vlasic said. "It's over.
"We'll respond. I thought we responded well tonight. We played 60 minutes. We should have won that game. We got pucks to the net. We got in front of him. It's just tough. But our group will be ready."
It's safe to assume Vlasic won't exchange pleasantries with Carter in Game 3. Vlasic was briefly knocked out of the game on Carter's charging penalty 200 feet from his own net, but he got a measure of revenge at 8:56 of the third period when he punched Brad Stuart's rebound from the right side of the goal past Jonathan Quick for a 3-2 lead.
That goal looked like it might hold up until the Sharks' late penalty troubles.
San Jose lost the battle of special teams. Its power play went 0 for 4 and is 0 for 7 on the series, while the penalty-killers allowed the Kings to score three goals in six chances.
The Kings won 2-0 in Game 1 behind a 35-save performance by Quick, and when L.A. grabbed a two-goal lead on a first-period goal by Carter and a second-period power-play goal by Drew Doughty, the Sharks had to wonder if they'd ever beat Quick.
They finally beat last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner at 9:47 of the second period when Patrick Marleau finished off a perfect passing play, ending Quick's shutout streak at 125:08. Stuart tied it at 14:21 when he fired from the right circle and beat Quick through a screen.
"It's a tough loss regardless," Joe Pavelski said. "We know we can break through. We have done it before. We know we're going to get our chances and we did and we could have had another one. It was just a tough way to lose it."
Carter scored 3:06 after the opening faceoff on the Kings' first shot of the game, beating Niemi with a wrist shot that appeared to catch the goaltender off-guard.
Doughty made it 2-0 when he took a cross-ice backhand pass by Brad Richardson and beat Niemi from inside the left circle at 4:10 of the second. Doughty was so open he had time to settle the puck down and catch Dustin Penner partially screening Niemi.
Marleau's goal ended Quick's shutout streak on the Sharks' 52nd shot of the series.
Scott Gomez, promoted to the third line after Torres was suspended, made his second great pass of the night to set up Stuart's tying goal. After a turnover by Jake Muzzin, Gomez laid out a pass that Stuart fired from the right side with congestion in front.
Quick tied Kelly Hrudey for the franchise lead in playoff wins at 26. L.A. matched a club record with its 12th straight home win, last done in 1992. The Kings set a franchise record with its fifth consecutive home win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We found a way," coach Darryl Sutter said. "You know what? The power play was on, we've been talking about it. We've been getting good looks and good opportunities and not finishing and we got it from different guys."
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