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Kings pay big price for slow start in Game 1

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The Los Angeles Kings gave up 10 goals in seven games last season in their second-round victory against the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They gave up half that many in the first 36:29 Thursday night in a 6-3 loss to the Sharks in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series.

San Jose jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks made it 5-0 in the second period when Raffi Torres and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored.

What went so wrong for a Kings team that allowed just 2.05 goals per game during the regular season, the fewest in the NHL?

"I think we weren't ready to start," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Sloppy play. Turnovers. Bad changes. Odd-man rushes. We probably gave up more odd-man rushes in the first period than we have in the past I don't know [how many games]. When you give a team like that opportunities on the odd-man they're going to make you pay, and that's what they did. It was more of the same in the second."

The Sharks are known for their fast starts, especially at home in front of their raucous fans at SAP Center. The Kings and former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter knew what to expect when the puck dropped.

"First off, coming into a building like this you have to prepared to face a little bit of an onslaught in the first part of the game," Sutter said. "Obviously I didn't do a good enough job of getting our players prepared for that."

Sutter's players blamed themselves for their nightmare start.

"They had more jump than we did," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for us. I know these guys, every one of us, want to come out -- this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this is what it's all about -- and have a great start. We didn't. We didn't execute well. You get behind that many that early against a good hockey club it's really tough to come back. We'd better learn from our mistakes and have a much better effort here in Game 2."

With his team trailing 5-0 after two periods, Sutter pulled Quick for backup Martin Jones. Quick gave up five goals on 28 shots; Jones stopped all four shots he faced and was off the ice when San Jose's Brent Burns scored an empty-net goal.

"I think I could have made the decision earlier," Sutter said of pulling Quick.

Sutter shuffled his bottom three lines in the third period, and the Kings battled back to score three unanswered goals by defenseman Jake Muzzin and Slava Voynov and center Trevor Lewis.

Lewis' tip-in of a Jeff Carter's blast from the left circle made it 5-3 with 6:01 left to play.

"In the third period we talked about we have to come back and play our game and we had a good period," Kings forward Marian Gaborik said. "We just got to build on it and move by this one and make sure we're ready from the first minute to play the next game."

That's as close as the Kings got, but they might have generated some confidence heading into Game 2 on Sunday at San Jose (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We want to play our best hockey," Mitchell said. "When we play our best hockey we feel we can beat anyone. We were just looking to get our [stuff] together."

Brown said it's no secret what the Kings need to do in Game 2.

"Limit those turnovers and the sloppy play," Brown said. "We weren't really good at passing the puck, distributing the puck, moving the puck out of our zone tonight. That was a result of us being too far apart from each other. More importantly, it's just a wake-up call."

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