Todd McLellan briefly marveled at how alike the games in the San Jose-Los Angeles Western Conference semifinal series has been.
Well, “briefly” is more accurate than “marveled,” really. He just noted that Logan Couture did in Game 3 what Anze Kopitar did in Game 2 – come from the dressing room and give his team a jump.
“We just had that happen in Los Angeles with one of their guys,” McLellan said. “It’s kind of odd the way the series seems to mirror itself, one game to another.”
In fairness, though, Couture’s return mattered more. For one, Couture is more important to the Sharks than Kopitar is to the Kings, though not by much. For two, Couture’s absence made the Sharks dramatically thinner, especially given the absences of Raffi Torres, Adam Burish and, again, Martin Havlat.
And for three, Couture scored the game-winning goal 1:29 into overtime, giving San Jose a 2-1 lead and save them the ignominy of becoming only the third team in 22 years to sweep a series and then face elimination in a sweep in the next one. As it is, they are down, two games to one, and Tuesday’s game will see the Kings motivated through anger as the Sharks were after Game 2.
[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks respond in Game 3]
San Jose went down on Thursday because of successive penalties late in the third period, allowing the Kings to score twice in the final two minutes and cheat the reaper, 4-3. And with one of those fun-house mirrors McLellan referred to, the Kings did as well late in Game 3.
A hooking call on Robin Regehr with 52 seconds left was legitimate if late by NHL playoff standards, and a goaltender interference call on Trevor Lewis with 4.5 seconds left was thinner still.
But those who forget history are doomed to have it spit all over them, as the old folks say, and the Kings carried that 3-on-5 into the extra session. They held San Jose to a single wrist shot from Couture from about 30 feet on the two-man, but couldn’t clear the deck when Joe Thornton found Patrick Marleau at the left goal, and Marleau in turn found Couture at the right hash mark. Couture one-timed his shot past goalie Jonathan Quick’s glove hand from between the hash marks 39 seconds later.
And the Kings were, to be frank, underwhelmed by either call. Quick won himself a game misconduct for expressing his First Amendment rights toward one of the officials, in yet another déjà vu-ey moment in this series: Bad behavior.
Don’t forget, after all, that noted rouser of rabble, Douglas Frederick Wilson, who spent $100,000 of Hasso Plattner’s hard-earned billions politely but firmly castigating Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s Department of Public Safety for the Torres suspension, which has now been extended by a game with the Sharks’ win.
In general, this was in some ways the Kings’ best game of the three, in that they were more dangerous more often than they had been in Games 1 or 2. San Jose did take many more shots – 81-64, when you include blocked and errant shots – and as they carried the play for probably the majority of the game, they seemed to be untroubled by the hangover from Game 2. The game ebbed and flowed more often, though, to the benefit of both sides. Both Quick and San Jose’s Antti Niemi were so good at rebound control that the 67 shots that reached them (40 by San Jose) were not in flurries, but in a single-shot fashion.
And though the series is still in the Kings’ control, the narrow margin between the two teams is now to subatomic level. “I would hope they used anger as motivation,” McLellan said after Game 2, and the same can presumably be said of the Kings going into Game 4.
Because this series is a bunch of games that look just like each other, apparently, which makes for boring viewing until the last couple of minutes. Or the last couple of penalties, whichever comes last.