Fast start leads Los Angeles to 3-1 win over Sharks

San Jose Sharks

– For the third time in five games in this first-round Stanley
Cup series, the Los Angeles Kings scored the first three goals.
SAN JOSE – For the third time in five games in this first-round Stanley Cup series, the Los Angeles Kings scored the first three goals.

While the San Jose Sharks have shown the ability to erase as much as a 4-0 deficit, the Kings held off the hosts this time, 3-1, setting up a sixth game in the best 4-of-7 series Monday at 7pm at Staples Center.

Coming into the night down 3-1 in the series, the Kings made the most of four shots directed at San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi. Los Angeles produced a 3-0 lead after 8:42 of play to chase Niemi off the ice for the remainder of the game.

Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick finished with 51 saves as the Sharks equaled a franchise post-season record with 52 shots.

“There were about a dozen great scoring chances where (Quick) had to come up big,” said Kings coach Terry Murray.

The decisive first period ended with Los Angeles up 3-0. San Jose whittled the deficit to two on Patrick Marleau’s second goal of the series at 5:43 of the second period.

The Sharks peppered Quick with 19 shots in the first period without making any headway against the early assault fashioned by the desperate Kings.

By the end of the first 20 minutes, only Kyle Wellwood and his wingers did not have a minus-one notation on the San Jose side of the scoresheet.

“It’s disappointing,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan. “If we expected another miracle, we’d have been kidding ourselves. One team was a little more opportunistic than the other and they got the win.”

Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead on its first shot of the game. Defenseman Rod Scuderi’s low shot from above the left-wing circle was redirected by winger Kyle Clifford at the left post, the puck then chipped over Niemi’s right shoulder from point-blank range by Wayne Simmonds at the 3:36 mark.

The Kings used a turnover by Dan Boyle inside the King zone to create a 2-on-1 rush. Los Angeles finished the play with the puck in the net when the 20-year-old Clifford drilled a short rebound of a Simmonds shot from the left flank into the net at 7:14.

The Kings needed only one more shot toward Niemi to take the 3-0 lead at 8:42 and send Antero Niittymaki between the pipes for the remainder of the game. Dustin Penner pulled a shot from the high slot past a diving Ian White and into the top right corner of the net for his second goal of the series.

“We lost this game in the first 10 minutes,” Logan Couture said. “It’s unacceptable to let this 3-1 lead go, at home, with this crowd.”

The strong play of both Quick and Niittymaki left the final 20 minutes scoreless. Niittymaki’s lunging save of a slapshot by Kings defenseman Drew Doughty 1:19 into the third kept the Sharks in contention. Couture found himself behind the Los Angeles defense at the 8:32 mark but was unable to jam the puck past Quick, instead slapping the puck into the goalie’s chest. The Sharks could not take advantage of two power plays in the third period, nor could 2:14 of play with the goalie pulled for an extra skater lead to another San Jose goal.

“We just have to bear down,” San Jose captain Joe Thornton said. “(Quick) was better than our forwards.”

“You have to give (Niittymaki) credit,” said Ryane Clowe. “He came in cold, made some great saves.” Niittymaki finished with 18 saves in relief.

A seventh game, if needed, is set for Wednesday in San Jose.