Another LA Story- The Los Angeles Kings let the Sharks know that they are not going to go quietly into that good night. Scoring three goals in a 4 ½ minute span that covered the end of second period and the beginning of the third, the homestanding Kings would go on to beat Team Teal 6-3 in Game 4 of their best of seven Western Conference opening round playoff series. With the win the Kings force a fifth game which will take place Saturday night at the Shark Tank in San Jose. Throughout the game the Sharks had their opportunities and just did not capitalize on enough of them. The Sharks had some good looks during some power play scenarios but did not convert these chances and ultimately it would cost them. Antti Niemi who was solid for most of the first three games of this series just did not have it Thursday night as the bad stretch towards the end of the second period that saw Los Angeles score three times would see him get an early shower just 34 seconds into the final period. The loss was not on Niemi however as the Sharks simply did not have the same consistency in their play throughout that they showed in the first three games of this series.
Key Segment of Game 4- With the game tied at 2-2, the Kings would score three times over a span of 4 ½ minutes late in the second period which would stretch into the third. This started with Justin Williams getting his second goal of the period when he was able to take a rebound of a puck off of the boards behind the Sharks goal and tip the puck past Niemi at the 16:37 mark. Williams was in the right spot at the right time for the Kings as he was able to get ahold of the puck first after a hard shot by Willie Mitchell. Just a few minutes later Tyler Toffoli gave Los Angeles a two goal lead as he easily slid another puck past Niemi at the 19:01 mark. Here the Sharks on defense were just not able to clear the rubber biscuit out of their zone. If this goal wasn’t the back breaker for Team Teal, the next one certainly would be as Marian Gaborik scored his second tally of the game just 34 seconds into the third period. At this point Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan decided now may be a good time to give Niemi a breather and sent in Alex Stalock to finish the game. This segment of Game 4 more or less negated the Sharks efforts Thursday night as up until Williams’ second goal which put LA ahead, Team Teal was giving the Kings another tough time as they had kept up with them for most of the contest to this point.
To Live And Die in LA- It would be the Sharks who had the opportunity for an improbable series sweep heading into this fourth game. However the LA Kings had other ideas as they drew first blood just over four minutes into the contest on Gaborik’s first goal of the game. The teams would trade scoring chances throughout most of the opening stanza. The Sharks were able to get a lot of pucks on LA goalie Jonathan Quick early but came away empty handed. Team Teal missed on their only power play of the period however would also have early success with their penalty kill. James Sheppard seemed to give San Jose a lift as he scored the Sharks first goal of the game with just 7.3 seconds remaining in the first period. However the end of the period may have actually taken the momentum away from Team Teal. Los Angeles would regain the lead on Williams first goal of the contest at the 3:52 mark of the middle period during a Kings power play. Matt Nieto would tie the game for the Sharks 4 ½ minutes later getting his second goal of the series. With the score tied at 2-2, the Sharks had two more power play opportunities where in each chance they missed on a wide open net as they could not get a stick on the sailing puck. In the third period Joe Pavelski would score a power play goal to get the Sharks to within two goals with over eight minutes remaining however Team Teal would draw no closer. Dustin Brown added an empty net goal for LA with 1:28 remaining.
Game 4 Analysis- The Los Angeles Kings are a very good hockey team and maybe one of the best teams ever to trail 0-3 in series. A three game lead does not insure a series victory, not that the Sharks don’t already know that as they went seven games against Detroit three years ago after having a three game lead there. What the Sharks take away from Game 4 here is that you can not let up on a team like the LA Kings and not expect them to respond. The Kings were playing for their season in this game and will be again in Game 5. The Sharks need to get back to what worked in the first three games and just continue to attack the Kings all over the ice. The Sharks need to keep the pressure on Jonathan Quick in the LA zone and make the Kings pay the price each time they dare even tough the puck. The Sharks have shown they can beat Quick and the Kings and need to get back to what they were doing. Sweeping a team like the LA Kings was a somewhat unlikely scenario given the team that they have. However, the good news here is that the Sharks still have the LA Kings on the ropes with a 3-1 series lead. The Sharks got a split of Games 3 and 4 at the Staples Center, which was the goal heading south. It’s now time to forget about Game 4. It’s over and done with. It’s time to get ready for Game 5 Saturday night. The Sharks need to continue to hold serve on their home ice. The motivation to win Game 5 means winning the series and not having to go back to the Staples Center until sometime next season. I think the Sharks have seen enough of the Staples Center for this season. Their motivation and the brass ring is there before them, they just have to be willing to grab it.
Game 5 Next- Saturday night it's the LA Kings returning to the Shark Tank to take on the Sharks again. The Sharks with a win advance to the next round of the Western Conference playoffs. The puck drops at 7pm PDT. The game can be seen on CSNCA, NBCSN. CBC and heard along the Sharks Radio Network.
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