When it comes down to it, nobody has more lives than the Los Angeles Kings. If you draw them in the playoffs, you better bury them when you have the chance. After taking the first two games in Hollywood, the San Jose Sharks knew they had a golden opportunity to put LA down in a 3-0 hole. Even though they played well enough, it was the Kings that got off the mat thanks to Tanner Pearson’s overtime winner for a hard fought 2-1 win in Game 3 of the first round series.
The Kings played their best game of the series against their California rival. Like the first two games, they fell behind early. In fact, it was the game’s opening shift where Joe Thornton beat Jonathan Quick only 30 seconds in to get the Shark Tank rocking. But that was the only shot that beat the former Conn Smythe winner. In typical fashion, the clutch American netminder slammed the door shut to finish with 29 saves. None bigger than his nerve racking stop on Joonas Donskoi moments before Pearson’s winner at 3:47 of sudden death.
When the chips are down, Quick becomes the toughest goalie to beat in a big spot. We saw him do it countless times in the Kings’ run to their second Stanley Cup in 2014. He stepped up against the Sharks after a subpar first three games. So did his teammates. As Quick goes, so does LA. They have other great players including Anze Kopitar, who scored his first of the series to tie the score at 8:10 of the first on a great Milan Lucic feed in front. Drew Doughty was over 30 minutes before overtime. The best overall defenseman in the league finished with 35:01 in a mesmerizing 45 shifts, which included four hits and five blocked shots.
With the game still tied in a tightly contested third, the Kings pulled out all the stops. A bad Lucic penalty (slashing) nearly derailed them. The Sharks power play was so dominant that they had the Kings four-man penalty killing unit on its heels for the whole two minutes. However, despite great passing and set ups, they were unable to beat Quick, who made a diving sprawl to deny a bid. His exhausted penalty killers sacrificed their bodies blocking shots and forcing Sharks’ misses.
As a team, LA blocked 27 shots led by Doughty’s five and partner Jake Muzzin’s four. San Jose also had 17 missed shots, meaning that 44 of their 74 attempts didn’t reach the net. The Sharks out-attempted the Kings 74-58 but only held a 30-24 edge in shots. The Kings used two big penalty kills to escape trouble in the third. That included a Pearson delay of game minor with under six minutes left in regulation. Poetically, he would win the game.
Following an unsure Quick, who didn’t realize he had Donskoi’s shot for a big save, the Kings’ third line forced a turnover at the San Jose blue line. Vinny Lecavalier’s back check forced a turnover. Dustin Brown then came in and leveled Donskoi, allowing Pearson to get a step on a quick exiting Logan Couture for a break in. His quick snapshot beat Martin Jones five-hole to give the Kings a much needed win. Brown and Lecavalier assisted.
The Kings are back in the series. Of course they are. They are Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers combined. You have to kill them. Now, the Sharks must rebound in Game 4. The road team has won all three games. San Jose doesn’t want to go back to Staples Center with the series tied. That would not be positive for a fragile team that doesn’t have the best reputation.
Sure. It’s a different team and year. With key additions Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Roman Polak, the Sharks are more battle tested. They also have a new coach who’s had success before. Pete DeBoer took the 2012 Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. Having a different voice in the locker room should help.
Ultimately, it will come down to the execution. They were plenty good enough to win tonight. It just didn’t happen. Quick wouldn’t allow it. Neither would his teammates, who were in desperation mode. Now, they get a day off before a big Game 4 Wednesday night.
If it’s anything like this one, get yer popcorn ready.