Programming note: Coverage of Game 4 between the Sharks and Kings begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live (Channel locations)
LOS ANGELES -- Kings head coach Darryl Sutter has been tinkering with his lineup and line combinations for virtually the entire series with the Sharks.
The result in Game 3 was a competitive team, but it not enough for his club to get back into the series. The Sharks lead, three games to none, after a 4-3 overtime win on Tuesday at Staples Center.
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“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game,” Sutter said after the loss. “We were pretty good tonight, and so were they.”
“I think our better players were better, that's for sure, and it was noticeable. I think we can push that through our lineup because those are the guys that are going to pull us. That will give us a chance for the next game, right?”
Maybe. Trade deadline acquisition Marian Gaborik finally made an appearance in the series, scoring once and getting off 11 shot attempts in more than 20 minutes of ice time. Jeff Carter has arguably been the Kings' best player in the series, and his third-period power play goal earned Los Angeles a 3-2 lead.
But the Kings are still not getting enough up and down their lineup. Drew Doughty seems to be playing through an injury, as he came off the ice for one stretch in the first period and was seen hunched over in pain in the second. Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Justin Williams are all without a point.
The one advantage the Kings were supposed to have going in was goaltending, but Antti Niemi (3-0, 2.58 GAA, .912 SP) is outplaying Jonathan Quick (0-3, 5.78 goals-against average, .852 save percentage).
Twice in three games, Quick has been unable to maintain his team’s lead. It’s not all on him, of course, but he’s not making any game-changing saves, either.
“There were times in the first two games where we had momentum. We just need to keep working and win a game,” Quick said.
The Kings will try and force a Game 5 when the teams meet on Thursday night, while the Sharks will be trying for their second straight first round sweep after beating Vancouver in four straight in 2013.
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“I’m not surprised with how they’re playing. They’ve been a top team for a long time now,” Brown said. “We’re just giving [up] too many opportunities. When you have a team like that, they’re going to capitalize. That’s our focus going into Game 4 -- limiting their opportunities.
“We’re in a position where we’re do or die and our backs are against the wall. Again, it’s about one game right now.”
Sutter expects his team to give the Sharks all they can handle again in Game 4.
"It’s a tough field, and we won’t go away quietly,” he said.