SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture didn't hold back when critiquing his team's power play after a 3-0 loss at Staples Center to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinals series.
In a word, the Sharks' power play was "garbage," Couture said Thursday night.
The Sharks went 0-for-3 with the man advantage in Game 5, and it's clear they'll need to get their power play back on track Sunday night against the Kings at HP Pavilion in Game 6 to stave off elimination and force a Game 7.
When the Sharks beat Los Angeles in Games 3 and 4 at San Jose, they scored four goals, with three of them coming on the power play. They're 3-for-9 at home on the power play against the Kings and 0-for-10 on the road in three games, all losses.
How important is the power play to the Sharks? They've scored at least one power play goal in five of their six wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year and have gone 10-for-33 overall.
"When it's on, it's allowed us to win games," Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said Sunday morning after a team meeting. "That's one of the things we have to focus on to make sure it comes ready tonight. Execute and get our chances, get some momentum and hopefully find the back of the net, as well."
The Sharks top power-play unit consists of their five biggest point producers: Couture, Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle. The Sharks' top players didn't produce on the power play Thursday night, and they struggled at even strength against the Kings. Of course, that could be said for the entire team.
From start to finish, the Kings were the more aggressive, physical team in Game 5.
"We weren't on top of our game," Pavelski said. "We weren't fast enough. We weren't good enough with the puck down there - a lot of things put you in a position like that. They came out definitely stronger, more physical, but we weren't quick enough and didn't create enough on the forecheck to counter that."
Thornton, who leads the Sharks with eight assists in nine playoff games, shared his teammates view on their play Thursday night.
"We were sloppy coming out of our end," Thornton said. "We've been so good getting out of our end. We've been doing a good job and we need to make sure we spend less time down there."
The Kings outhit the Sharks 51-24 in Game 5 and set a physical tone from the opening faceoff. As a result, the Sharks only fired 24 shots on net and couldn't beat Jonathan Quick in the 3-0 loss.
"It's a lot easier to hit a slow moving target. It doesn't matter what sport you're in. We didn't execute very well, we didn't handle pucks, we were slow, and that plays right into their hands," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We expect to be better in those areas tonight and then we'll take our chances from there. If we're not, then there's going to be a physical aspect to it and we'll have to respond and get past it."
Playing at HP Pavilion has been a quick cure for most of the Sharks' ills throughout the playoffs and especially against the Kings for two-plus seasons. The Sharks are 4-0 at home during the playoffs this year and have defeated the Kings seven straight times overall at HP. The Kings haven't won at HP since Game 5 of the 2011 quarterfinals when they beat the Sharks 3-1 but lost the series in six games.
"We were a little upset before," forward TJ Galiardi said. "We're back at home where we feel comfortable, and we're ready for tonight."
A major factor in that impressive home run has been the Sharks' power play, which ranks No. 1 in the postseason at home (9-for24, 37.5 percent) and No. 12 on the road (1-for-19, 5.3 percent).
"I think we're all really aware we're coming into a tough building and we'll have our hands full," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Both teams have experience. Both teams have a lot of guys in their lineup who have been on both sides of this. There's not much give or take at all."
The Sharks seemed relaxed, loose and confident Sunday morning. The key for them will be maintaining that attitude when the puck drops.
"It's a pressure situation, but you can't fold under that," Boyle said. "You've got to thrive under that and enjoy it. Obviously guys are in good spirits now, but I think come 5 o'clock you're going to see a team that's ready and working and ready to take this back to L.A."
But the Sharks will face a Kings team that has held them without a goal for 96 minutes and five seconds. The Sharks haven't scored a goal since taking a 2-0 lead at 3:55 of the second period in Game 4. San Jose had four shots the rest of that game as the Kings ramped up their intensity and aggression. Despite the Sharks' aggressive start to that contest, the Kings wound up outhitting them 53-46 in a 2-1 San Jose win.
For the Kings, the plan is to keep playing the way they have most of the year.
"We [didn't] give up many goals over the course of the year," Sutter said. "So generally teams keep those identities if they have a chance to keep playing."