|LAK Lead Series 3 - 2|
LOS ANGELES – Anze Kopitar was struggling to put the puck into the net. Slava Voynov was having issues defensively. The Los Angeles Kings looked ready to drop a game at home for the first time in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But a physical 60-minute effort in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals turned those notions on their ear.
Kopitar broke out of his scoring slump with a late second-period goal and Voynov added a seeing-eye goal on point shot early in the third to propel the Kings to a 3-0 victory night against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves for his third shutout of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs as L.A. took a 3-2 series lead. The Kings can advance by winning Game 6 on Sunday at HP Pavilion (NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
After back-to-back 2-1 losses at San Jose, the Kings stepped up their game to a level the Sharks couldn't match.
"I think it's fair to say that this was our best effort in the playoffs, really, and the most consistent effort," Kopitar said. "Now was a good time to do it."
Los Angeles came out hitting everything in sight – the Kings finished with a 51-24 edge in hits - and extended its home winning streak to a franchise-record 13 games, including six in a row in these playoffs. L.A. has won its last seven playoff games at Staples Center, including the Cup-clinching 6-1 win against New Jersey last June.
Six Kings registered at least four hits. Dustin Penner bumped Logan Couture so hard Couture's helmet came off, and Matt Greene knocked down T.J. Galiardi in a tone-setting opening period in which L.A. was credited with 24 hits to San Jose's 12.
"You want to slow them down," Greene said. "That's the main thing. Just establish our game plan, which is kind of a grinding pace and physical play and get on bodies and just try and slow them down and not letting them do what they were doing in Games 3 and 4."
Quick earned his seventh postseason shutout and passed Kelly Hrudey as the franchise leader in playoff wins with his 27th. He was masterful in the third period, making his best stop of the night on Joe Pavelski's shot from the right side with 40 seconds left. Quick has stopped 313 of 330 shots in the postseason for a .948 save percentage.
"What Kelly meant to this organization 20 years ago was pretty impressive," Quick said. "Everything he accomplished here and over the past few years. I've gotten a chance to know him and he's a great guy, loves hockey. I remember watching him when I was growing up, he was very competitive and hated to lose.
"Being able to pass him on that list, it's an accomplishment but wins are team accomplishments, so you got to give credit to the guys you play with."
San Jose coach Todd McLellan didn't recognize Quick's performance as the difference after San Jose found itself on the losing end of a low-scoring game following back-to-back 2-1 wins in Games 3 and 4.
"I didn't think we tested him a lot tonight," McLellan said. "There are a number of goalies in the League that could have performed that way tonight. Maybe his best save was his last one … but other than that, he didn't have to work hard."
San Jose needed to live off its power play but went scoreless on three chances. The line of Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and T.J. Galiardi were a combined minus-4 and Thornton put three shots on goal. Couture was a minus-3.
Although Thornton won 20 of 29 faceoffs, Los Angeles was better than 50 percent (37-35) on draws for the first time in the series.
"Myself included, we were bad tonight," Couture said. "That's why we lost. We're not going to win if our best players are not our best players. We need to step up. Quick played well. When you get chances you have to score. It's the playoffs. We had enough chances to win tonight. Guys need to start bearing down and scoring some goals."
Couture wasn't done critiquing his team, which must force a Game 7 against a Kings team that is 7-1 with a 3-2 series lead.
"We weren't good at the start. We weren't good at any point of the game tonight. We didn't deserve to win. Our power play was brutal. Our passes weren't on. Guys weren't shooting the puck, breakout was off and timing was off."
Though Thornton won 69 percent of his draws, it was a faceoff he lost to Trevor Lewis that led to Voynov's goal 53 seconds into the third period. Lewis muscled the puck back to Voynov, who fired a shot through traffic and past Antti Niemi for his second goal the series, helping to atone for key turnovers in Games 3 and 4.
"He's awesome, man. He shoots the puck really well," Greene said. "You think it's an accident, and then he does it every game. He gets them through. He gets them out of the net. That's a gift that a couple of guys on our back end have.
"It's fast. It's hard. He gets it through. I don't know how he does it or else I'd do it."
Sustained pressure off a San Jose turnover led to Kopitar's goal. Voynov pinched and Kyle Clifford sent a shot from the right point that squirted cleanly to Kopitar, who easily nudged it into the open net with 1:52 left in the second period.
Kopitar's last previous goal was Game 4 in the conference quarterfinals, which ended a 19-game scoring drought.
"It is a little bit on my mind, but … it doesn't matter who does it, as long as we do it," Kopitar said. "If I get on the boards, it's a little more relieving for me. Now it's a matter of doing it over and over again."
The Kings could have enjoyed a first-period lead if their shooters had been on target – both Kopitar and Voynov missed the net on great chances. San Jose spent most of the period icing the puck and getting knocked down.
"Game 5, coming into their building, they were going to have a hard push -- we talked about that before the game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They came hard right off the bat, but we got through that without being scored on.
"The rest of the night, the other 50 minutes, we weren't very good. Moving forward, maybe that's a good thing because we've got a lot of things to improve on."
The Sharks put a wrinkle in their lineup and went with seven defensemen as Jason Demers played forward in place of the scratched Tim Kennedy.
McLellan didn't say whether he would make any more changes for Game 6, but did say extending the series to a seventh game would be a 20-man job.
"We're going to have to contributions from our big guys," he said, "but also from our supporting cast."
Quick knows closing out the series by winning at the Shark Tank won't be easy.
"We played well. We played hard, came out with a purpose," he said. "It's not easy. It's not easy to win against this team. They're a great team. We need that effort, and we need more if we expect to win in San Jose. That's a tough building to play in, so we're going to need a great effort again."
|Back to top ↑|