Colin Fraser #24 of the Los Angeles Kings battles for control of the puck with Scott Gomez #23 of the San Jose Sharks in the first period in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2013 in San Jose, California.
The Los Angeles Kings had an opportunity to finish off their series with the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, but after spotting the Sharks a 2-0 lead early in the second period, the Kings were unable to seal the deal, dropping a 2-1 decision at HP Pavilion.
The loss means that there will be a Game 7 in the series, with the puck drop scheduled for 6pm Pacific time on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The game started out well for the Sharks, who were looking to seize early momentum and were aided by several early Kings penalties. In the first nine minutes of the contest, the Sharks had three power plays, attempted 16 shots (eight of which found their way on net), and grabbed a 1-0 lead when Joe Thornton secured a power play tally.
The Kings did a great job of coming back in the second half of the period, however, holding the Sharks without a shot and ending up with several quality scoring chances, which San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi kept at bay.
The second period started out with the Sharks taking the reins early, scoring another goal on TJ Galiardi’s first tally of the playoffs. They also gave the Sharks another opportunity to put the game away when Justin Williams was sent to the box for a four-minute double minor. The Kings did kill that penalty off, and rode the ensuing momentum wave for the rest of the period. It crested when Dustin Brown scored his third goal of the playoffs with six minutes left in the frame to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1.
In the third period, things were much more even-keeled, but the Sharks were able to keep the Kings’ offense in check. They made a lot of smart decisions with the puck, and it seemed as though Los Angeles could never get any type of zone entry going in order to give themselves a realistic chance to win the game.
Jonathan Quick did make some key saves in the period to keep Los Angeles in the game, including one on a breakaway by Patrick Marleau, but ultimately his performance was not enough as the Sharks were able to hold on and tie the series.
The most telling statistic all night for the Kings came in their inability to win face-offs. Yes, the final tally wasn’t all that bad, with the Sharks winning a 30-20 decision in that regard, but through the first two periods of the game especially, San Jose was absolutely dominant in that area, giving them possession early and often and hampering the Kings’ ability to mount any type of a comeback.
Needless to say, if the Kings give the Sharks the kinds of opportunities to grab early momentum that they did on Sunday night, then the defending Stanley Cup champions could be looking at booking tee times later in the week rather than preparing for a second straight Western Conference Finals appearance.