LOS ANGELES – The Kings’ approach was simple and shortsighted; win one game.
That’s about all you can afford to do when facing a 3-0 series deficit, and it paid off for the Kings, who survived to extend this first round series with the Sharks in a 6-3 win over San Jose Thursday night at STAPLES Center.
The Kings’ offense, which has been one of the few consistent aspects to their play this series, showed up in full force Thursday, registering six goals, chasing San Jose’s starting netminder Antti Niemi from the Sharks’ crease early in the third period.
A defensive breakdown in the final seconds of the first period saw San Jose answer, as James Sheppard batted home an airborne rebound past Jonathan Quick as Kings defensemen left him all alone in front of the net, tying the game 1-1 with :07.8 seconds left in the opening frame.
To begin the second period, San Jose’s Raffi Torres was called for a boarding infraction. The Kings went to work on the power play, with Justin Williams capitalizing to reclaim the lead.
Williams hopped on a loose puck upon entering San Jose’s zone on a pressurized entry from the Kings, and fired a wrist shot from along the sideboards that trickled through the pads of Antti Niemi 3:52 into the second period.
It was Williams’ first goal of the playoffs, and his first goal in his past 10. He wasn’t done for the night, though.
Less than five minutes after Williams reclaimed the lead for the Kings, Matt Nieto buried another equalizer for the Sharks, walking in on a loose rebound and chipping the puck past Quick to tie the score 2-2 with 11:35 remaining in the second period.
Then, Williams struck again.
After Jarret Stoll won a key offensive zone faceoff, Willie Mitchell fired a slap shot from atop the point that caromed off the boards behind San Jose’s net. Williams read the bounce, and tipped the puck past Antti Niemi before the Sharks’ goaltender had a chance to properly judge the play.
Williams’ second goal of the night gave the Kings a 3-2 lead with 3:53 left to play in the second period.
In the final moments of the second period, as the Kings controlled the puck in San Jose’s zone, Alec Martinez wristed a shot from the point that hit off a defenseman in front of the Sharks’ net and straight onto the stick of Tyler Toffoli.
Toffoli, in one motion, buried the puck, giving the Kings a 4-2 lead with under a minute remaining in the middle frame.
The Kings, entering the third period with a two-goal lead, quickly added to it, as Marian Gaborik struck for his second goal of the evening, beating Antti Niemi to the top right corner after receiving a gorgeous pass from Anze Kopitar to give the Kings a 5-2 lead with 19:26 to play in regulation.
San Jose made a comeback attempt with a Joe Pavelski power play goal, but Dustin Brown sealed the night’s fate with an empty net goal, giving the Kings a 6-3 lead with 1:28 remaining, the night’s eventual score.
With two goals apiece tonight, Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams each recorded their second career two-goal playoff games. Gaborik scored two goals with the Minnesota Wild against the Vancouver Canucks on May 2, 2003, and Justin Williams scored two goals for the Kings in Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinals series with the Sharks last season.
Dating back to November 28, 2011, the Kings are now 11-1-1 against the Sharks in their past 13 meetings at STAPLES Center.
The Kings are now 10-2 in their last 12 playoff games at STAPLES Center.
Game 5 will be back at the SAP Center in Northern California on Saturday night with the puck slated to drop at 7:00 PM PST.