LOS ANGELES – A late goal in the second period and another early in the third paced the Los Angeles Kings as they reclaimed the series lead against the Sharks with a 3-0 win on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Los Angeles, which won the first two games of the series at home before the Sharks responded with two wins at HP Pavilion, leads the Western Conference semifinal series, three games to two. The Kings can end the Sharks’ season in Game 6 on Sunday, while San Jose will attempt to force a decisive Game 7.
The game was scoreless late in the second when a defensive zone turnover by Matt Irwin led to sustained offensive zone pressure by the Kings. Kyle Clifford’s point shot bounced over a host of bodies in front of the net, including winger Justin Williams, and Anze Kopitar scored his first goal of the series. Antti Niemi lost control of his stick just before the goal, which came with 1:52 to go in the second.
TJ Galiardi took a mindless goalie interference penalty with 1:10 to go in the second, hitting Jonathan Quick in the crease. The Kings capitalized early in the third as the time carried over, when Trevor Lewis won a faceoff against Joe Thornton. Slava Voynov scored his second goal of the series on a wrist shot through a screen at the 53-second mark. The goal came just after Galiardi exited the penalty box, so it officially counted as an even strength marker.
Quick recorded his third shutout of the playoffs and second against San Jose with 24 saves. His best stop came with 39 seconds left, when he denied Joe Pavelski point blank on a pass through the slot from Thornton.
Jeff Carter sealed the win with an empty net goal with 31 seconds left and Niemi pulled for an extra attacker.
The Sharks were outplayed for the majority of the first two periods, but still had some outstanding scoring chances before Kopitar’s goal. Patrick Marleau’s redirection attempt on a pass from Logan Couture was stopped by Quick, as was Marleau’s immediate rebound attempt with 11:19 to go in the second.
Marleau forced Jake Muzzin into a turnover at the Sharks’ defensive blue line with about five minutes to go in the second, and raced ahead with Logan Couture. He got Couture the puck in the slot, but Quick managed to fight off the shot.
Los Angeles had the early advantage, dominating play in the first period and hitting the Sharks at every opportunity. Carter, Kopitar and Voynov all had open looks in prime scoring areas, but all missed the net.
The Kings laid 24 hits on the Sharks in the opening frame, and had a 51-24 advantage for the game. Dustin Penner rubbed out Couture along the boards at center ice five minutes in, while Matt Greene flattened Galiardi with 7:50 left in the first.
The Sharks went 17 minutes and 59 seconds without a shot on goal during one stretch, ending with Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot with 6:11 into the second.
History is not on the Sharks’ side. They have lost eight of nine series in which they’ve trailed three games to two in franchise history.
San Jose has lost all five games at Staples Center, including two in the regular season.
The team that has scored the first goal has won all five games of the series.
The Sharks failed to convert on three power play attempts, and is 3-for-19 in the series. San Jose had just three shots on goal in six minutes of power play time.
The Sharks own the league’s best home power play, going 9-for-24 (37.5 percent), but have just one power play goal in 19 opportunities on the road and none against the Kings.
Los Angeles was also 0-for-3 and is 4-for-15 over the five games.
Niemi fell to 6-3 in the playoffs with 26 saves. He was pulled for an extra attacker with 2:22 left in the third, and returned after Carter’s goal.
Quick is 7-4, and has held the opposition to two goals or less in eight of 11 starts.
Jason Demers made his postseason debut lining up as a left wing on the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Bracken Kearns. Tim Kennedy came out of the lineup.
Injured Sharks forward Adam Burish took the pregame skate, and looks to be nearing a return, but did not play in Game 5. Marty Havlat (lower body) did not make the trip.
The Kings rearranged all four of their forward lines.
The start time for Game 6 on Sunday will depend on the outcome of the Penguins-Senators game on Friday. If the Penguins win, the game will start at 5 p.m. If Ottawa extends the series, the game will start at 7 p.m. Pittsburgh leads, three games to one.
Game 7, if necessary, is at Staples Center on Tuesday, May 28.