For the Los Angeles Kings, the comeback magic seemed to sputter to life in the second period when they charged back from a 3-0 deficit. There was more than one resilient team in the building, though, and the Kings ran out of luck in the third.
For the fourth out a total of five games, the Sharks scored on one of their first two shots. That is a terse and painful summary of this series for the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have been plagued by bad defensive coverage both on players entering the zone and establishing a long cycle in the Kings' end. The first goal was of the former variety when Joonas Donskoi fired it stick side and in as Jonathan Quick was screened and caught favoring glove side. Just nine minutes later, Chris Tierney would score essentially the same goal on Jonathan Quick. That too, is a bitter encapsulation of his short and torrid post season in net.
Matt Nieto, which is kind of a weird name and makes me wonder where he is from, would add one more notch in the Kings' climb when he scored four minutes into the third. Then, the Kings just came alive. They began entering the zone with speed, beating their defensemen to pucks, and moving the puck in creative ways to create gaps and quality scoring chances. With the scoring opened up by a double ricochet off the leg of Anze Kopitar, fortune seemed to be smiling down on the Kings. This was followed by some great puck movement in the offensive zone that left Jeff Carter all alone in front of Jones with a beautiful chance that he easily lifted past Jones. Finally, the fourth line capstoned the Kings' comeback when Kyle Clifford's shot took a weird bounce off the post and dropped right in Kris Versteeg's wheelhouse. Wihtin the span of nine minutes of play, the Kings had tied the game.
Reality returned after a brief four minute hiatus in the third. Rob Scuderi laid down to defend a pass from a player that Drew Doughty seemingly still had covered, letting chaos erupt in front of the net yet again on Quick's doorstep. Of course, the Kings pushed back mightily after that goal, only to have Joe Pavelski score on a shot from the boards that Quick simply should have had. With the score 5-3, the Kings miraculously pulled the goalie with four minutes to go, but they never could find their sliver of hope. An empty net goal would put a neat bow on the whole affair for the Sharks.
It was probably the best game of the series for the Kings, despite the outcome. There were a total of four penalties across both teams (including a foolish Dustin Brown trip for revenge on the missed call of game 4), but it was the cleanest and hardest fought game of the series. The Kings racked up over 30 scoring chances, and over half of those were high danger at 17 (the Sharks had 17 total, by the way. The Kings finished the series up at even strength in all the classic metrics you think they might except goals, which you probably expected too. It felt like a team that made too few adjustments and too late. People are pegging it as the Sharks' revenge for 2014, but I see it as Peter DeBoer's revenge for 2012 just as much.
It was a difficult series for a lot of players. Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli would get their first, final and only points in game five. Marian Gaborik also finished the series with a single point. Jake Muzzin led the Kings with five points, funny enough. Jonathan Quick had a 3.03 GAA and just a .886 save percentage. On the positive side, it was quite the swan song for Vincent Lecavalier, who led the Kings with four shots on goal, seven scoring chances, and seven individual shot attempts.
We may now stand on the precipice of the most tumultuous off season in the Darryl Sutter era of the Kings. It seems as though very few names are safe, and this off season may be the true test of the front office in what changes they make. If there is a silver lining, it's that the Kings essentially only gave up a third round pick for all the trades they made. With Jordan Weal's NHL prospects hanging thin and Valentin Zykov's development seemingly stalling, at least it's one less thing to be frustrated about as we enter another long summer.