No matter what happens, the Los Angeles Kings have played their last game at HP Pavilion this season. Consider it a cause for celebration. With their backs against the wall, the San Jose Sharks were once again able to defend their territory, eking out a 2-1 win in Game 6 to even the series at three games apiece. Three games in San Jose, three 2-1 losses for the Kings. The upside, of course, is that the Kings will have a chance to complete a clean sweep for the home teams in this series, with Game 7 in Los Angeles.
Where did it go wrong? Well, it was a story of three periods... one unlucky, one balanced, and one disappointing.
The first period in itself was a puzzling one, as LA was overwhelmed early but fought back and actually ended the period ahead in shots. Unfortunately, they were put in a hole early, and a familiar issue for both teams made it happen. An early penalty to Kyle Clifford for charging was killed off effectively, but a Mike Richards hooking penalty was exacerbated when Anze Kopitar's clearing attempt went over the glass. So it was a 5-on-3, and after a few missed shots and Quick saves, Joe Pavelski threaded a pass through the legs of a crouching Matt Greene to a wide-open Joe Thornton. Thornton made it 1-0 quite easily from there, and the Sharks soon held an 8-1 shot advantage and were in control.
This made the Kings' response all the more impressive, and their lack of goals all the more unfortunate. Los Angeles racked up the final eight shots on goal of the period, and that didn't even count the three shots which hit the pipe in the final twelve minutes. That's right: three. (Four if you count a Justin Williams rebound tap-in attempt from a foot away which also glanced off the post). The first shot was an absolute cannon from Drew Doughty which rang the far post on the Kings' first power play. The second, a rebound by Dwight King after a Trevor Lewis shot was stopped, hit the near post. And finally, Anze Kopitar drilled the crossbar on a another rebound, on the Kings' second power play. Antti Niemi helped preserve the advantage with a stop from close range on Kyle Clifford, and intermission hit with LA up 1-0.
The Kings got off to a decent start in the second, but T.J. Galiardi (fresh off of a subpar Game 5) tallied his first goal of the playoffs to end that momentum. Scott Hannan chipped a puck out of his zone to Galiardi, who dashed into the zone and took a wrist shot with Robyn Regehr providing a pretty nice screen. 2-0, Sharks. San Jose could have essentially put the game away when Justin Williams picked up a double minor for high-sticking Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but the Kings PK was tremendous and Jonathan Quick made a few saves to hold the fort. The Kings needed a goal to get back in the game, and after three goalposts and good work from Niemi, they got a garbage goal off the stick of Dustin Brown. Matt Greene's long shot glanced off of a Shark and hit the end boards, and Brown got to the puck and banked it off the back of Niemi.
The Kings got good performances from Trevor Lewis (who was rewarded with 20 minutes despite losing most of his faceoffs) and Greene and Scuderi (hooray, old defensive defensemen!), and the top 6 forwards weren't terrible for most of the game despite not finding the net. However, everything the Kings had worked so hard for in the second sort of collapsed in the third. See if you can figure out what the following numbers represent.
66, 47, 71, 50, 74, 69, 87, 52
Stumped? No, it's not the numbers of the Kings' past and future AHL callups. It's also not the percentage of faceoffs that the Sharks have won in every game this series (though that's probably about right). According to ESPN, it was the distance (in feet) from net for every Kings third-period shot on goal. That's right: the Kings couldn't get a shot on goal from within 15 yards of Antti Niemi. The Sharks were extremely effective in shutting down the neutral zone and preventing the Kings from getting anywhere near a scoring chance, and though Quick did his part in stopping a Patrick Marleau breakaway and preventing the lead from getting bigger, the Kings posed no threat in the third.
So, as we all expected in the back of our minds, this series goes to seven games. What do the Kings need to do better on Tuesday night? Share your thoughts in the comments.