LOS ANGELES – For a while Thursday night it looked like the San Jose Sharks might become the latest team to squander a rather hefty lead in a Stanley Cup playoff game. A couple of Joes – Sharks centers Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski – made sure it didn't happen.
After watching the Los Angeles Kings close to within 3-2 with two goals in the final nine minutes of the second period, Thornton and Pavelski responded with quick goals early in the third and the Sharks went on to a 6-3 win at the Staples Center. The victory gives the Sharks a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinal series, which they hope to wrap up Saturday night in San Jose.
"We just came in the locker room and we said, 'Hey, we got a great chance of closing out this game. We're up 3-2 with 20 minutes left,' " Thornton said. "We just bore down and got it done."
The Sharks saw a 3-0 lead melt down to 3-2 before Thornton scored his first goal of the series and Pavelski followed with his third 54 seconds later to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead.
"It seems like goals are coming in succession," said Thornton, who also won 16 of 24 faceoffs and helped the Sharks kill off all six of the Kings' power plays, including a pair of two-man advantages. "You score a goal, bang, the next shift another goal is scored. I think that's what happened again tonight."
The Sharks gave the Kings a smidgen of life late in the third period when Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle went to the penalty box 15 seconds apart, giving the Kings a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:45, but the Sharks killed it off.
"It's 6-3, but the game's not over yet," Thornton said. "They score and it's 6-4 and they're still on the power play and it could be 6-5. So it's still a game. You still have to concentrate and bear down."
No one picked up Thornton when he moved to the front of the net to chip Patrick Marleau's pass behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at 2:28 of the third period after Kyle Wellwood got the puck away from Kings defensemen Matt Greene behind the net.
Asked how he made himself seem to disappear, Thornton said: "I'm 6-4 and 230 pounds, so I don't think I'm too invisible."
Pavelski, who has a goal in each of the Sharks' three wins, redirected Boyle's shot from the right point through traffic at 3:22.
"I really liked our competition to make it a 3-2 game," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "And then whatever happened in the third with giveaways, turnovers, lost faceoffs … that's sometimes a hard thing to explain."
Torrey Mitchell increased the lead to 6-2 at 11:42 when he put in a rebound and the Kings' Alexei Ponikarovsky closed out the scoring with a deflection past Antti Niemi at 13:11.
The Sharks have outscored the Kings 12-4 since falling behind 4-0 early in the second period of Game 3.
"I think we're a little more confident and playing the right way, doing the little things you have to do at this time of the year to be successful," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I still think there's room for improvement in our game, but it's a grind-it-out series. It's about being hard along the boards and hard around the net. If we continue to understand that, we'll give ourselves a chance to advance."
The Sharks took their 3-0 lead in the second period when Ryane Clowe sandwiched two goals around one by Jason Demers before the Kings stormed back to climb within a one on goals by Brad Richardson and Justin Williams.
Williams was credited with a goal at 16:04 when his cross-ice pass for Ryan Smyth went into the net off the stick of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Richardson scored at the 11-minute mark when he knocked in a rebound after Niemi, who was solid with 35 saves, made a stop against Smyth.
"Once again in the second we found a way to take it to them a little bit," said Clowe, who has a series-leading four goals. "They responded, but we still had the lead. In the second game on the road that's what we wanted. We talked about it. It wasn't like we wanted to get four (goals) or we wanted to get five, but we weren't going to sit back and sit on a one-goal lead and try to hold them off and play it safe."
Clowe, who scored twice in Game 3, was credited with the first goal of the game at 3:58 of the second period when he threw the puck in front from the left side. The puck bounced in the air off a skate and was heading toward the net before Kings defenseman Alec Martinez knocked it in with his stick.
Demers scored in more conventional fashion 74 seconds later, taking Logan Couture's pass from the slot and firing it inside the left post.
Clowe made it 3-0 at 9:28 with 32 seconds left on Matt Greene's double-minor for high-sticking Scott Nichol. Clowe skated to the net and tipped Couture's shot behind Quick just before the puck was about to cross the goal line.
"The last game was a wild one," Clowe said of Game 3, when the Sharks rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win 6-5 in overtime. "Nobody expected that. Tonight was more of our game with a better start. It was a grind-it-out game, the game we needed to play. We were looking for that kind of game, so it was nice."
Both teams had plenty of quality chances in a scoreless first period that featured two power plays – including a two-man advantage -- for each side.
The Sharks failed to take advantage of back-to-back slashing penalties against the Kings, the second of which gave them a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:22. Quick made seven of his 13 first-period saves during the power plays.
Niemi made three of his nine saves in the period during the Kings power plays that included a nine-second two-man advantage.
"It was great to see Nemo respond with some big saves," Clowe said. "Nemo always makes the timely save and he did it again."