It took 38 minutes, but the Los Angeles Kings were finally able to fully grab control of Game 5 of their second round playoff series, using goals by Anze Kopitar and Slava Voynov to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-0 and take a 3-2 lead in the series.
By contrast to Game 4’s first period, the Kings came out firing early and often against a Sharks team that was playing on its heels from the word go. The shot total from that first period was only 9-6 in favor of the Kings, but there was a palpable air of domination over the proceedings.
The Kings were crisper with their passes than they have been at any other time in the series, and their zone entries finally started to look like the ones that this team has been able to put together, although not to sustain, at various points in these playoffs.
The second period was where the action really got started, however. The Sharks were finally able to get some good traction going in the other direction despite the Kings’ early dominance, and it took some tremendous work by Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to keep the game scoreless.
One play in particular stood out in the period, as the Sharks were able to spring a 2-on-1 with two of their best offensive players, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Couture feathered a tremendous pass onto Marleau’s stick, and Quick read the deke perfectly and stopped the shot. Marleau did pick up the rebound on the play, and took a spinning shot at Quick, which the Kings goalie was able to smother in the crease.
The play in the second was also noteworthy for Kings captain Dustin Brown. He started throwing his body around in a big way in that frame (he ended up with seven hits in the game), and had a couple of excellent defensive plays as well. He even had a tremendous scoring chance in the period, going on a 2-on-1 rush with Anze Kopitar and firing off a crazy shot while lying on the ice.
San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi was able to sweep the shot aside, but the play was a great microcosm of the effort that Brown put into the game.
Ultimately, the scrappy play by the Kings paid off, as Kopitar grabbed a loose puck in the crease off a rebound and tapped it in to give the Kings the lead. The play was a direct result of the excellent chemistry that Kopitar showed with his new linemates, Kyle Clifford and Justin Williams, and showed the Kings’ strategy of crashing the net with tons of pressure working to perfection.
Not content with just one goal, the Kings once again got several players screening Niemi again early in the third period, as Trevor Lewis managed to win a faceoff against Sharks captain Joe Thornton and Slava Voynov uncorked an excellent wrister into the net.
Control of the game did vary quite a bit in that final stanza, but yet again, Quick was on his game, making a couple of key saves after the Sharks pulled Niemi late in the frame. Jeff Carter ended up flipping home an empty netter in the closing seconds, and gave the Kings a chance to close out the series over the weekend in San Jose.
It will obviously be a big test for the Kings in going back into a building that they were unable to win in for Games 3 and 4, but with the momentum of a solid victory at their backs, they have an excellent chance to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals for the second season in a row.