After a third consecutive victory the Los Angeles Kings are on the brink of accomplishing what only eight other NHL teams have done, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game NHL playoff series. Justin Williams scored twice to propel the Kings to a 4-1 victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks, evening the opening round NHL playoff series at three, and setting up a highly anticipated game seven on Wednesday night. The two teams will play a seventh game in a playoff series for the third time in four seasons in one of the best playoff rivalries in recent history.
Tied at one heading into the third period Williams scored his second goal of the game at the 11:56 mark. Williams was able to knock home a loose puck that wasn’t quite controlled by Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, much to the chagrin of Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. The Sharks head coach thought Stalock, making his first start in the series, had sufficiently controlled the puck. In a comment indicative of how desperate things have become for San Jose McLellan said after the game that “We (Sharks) got cheated”. The two teams were deadlocked in a tight 1-1 battle at the time. Replays were inconclusive but did indicate that the puck wasn’t completely controlled. Trying to corral the puck as it slipped behind Stalock, Sharks defender Matt Irwin may have accidentally knocked it in. The decision to start Stalock was predicated by the poor play of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. After solid play in the first three games of the season the playoff inconsistency that Niemi has shown in years past, especially against the Kings, returned at the worst time possible. Stalock kept it close, but after the Williams go ahead goal the Kings were able to blow the contest open. As many predicted goaltending is becoming a story in the series. After a slow start in the first three games Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is proving once again that he’s one of the elite netminders in the NHL. Quick has allowed just one goal in the last two games of the series, won by Los Angeles with a combined 7-1 score.
After Williams scored his second goal of the game to give the Kings the lead for good, Anze Kopitar scored two goals in a one minute and fifteen seconds span to put the game away for good. Kopitar notched his second and third goals of the series and has now scored in all six games of the series. Kopitar provided the assist on Williams’ second goal, giving the Kings captain three points. Drew Doughty added two assists for Los Angeles.
The Sharks played without top defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic, out with an upper body injury. Vlasic’s availability will be a big question mark as the two teams head into game seven. Who Todd McLellan plays in net will also be a big factor. Stalock is an unproven playoff performer with just 27 regular season appearances under his belt. The decision to stay with Stalock or go back to Niemi will be a big storyline as the series moves into its final game.
Game seven is Wednesday night at the Shark Tank in San Jose. The winner will move on to the second round to face the Anaheim Ducks.
Fans in attendance will receive a San Jose Sharks promotional schedule gift for all games at the SAP Center.
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BY: Chris M.