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Sharks build big lead, then hold off Kings in Game 1

by Corey Masisak

SAN JOSE -- This Western Conference First Round series was expected to be a toss-up before it began, but the San Jose Sharks made Game 1 decidedly not in the opening 40 minutes.

The Sharks opened this series with five consecutive goals in a dominant display and beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 in Game 1 on Thursday night at SAP Center.

"The third period was not good, but we could not have played a better first two periods," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said.

Six players scored goals for the Sharks, including someone from each of the four forward lines. The Sharks carried the play in the first two periods as the Kings struggled with turnovers and missed passes in the neutral zone.

San Jose looked faster and turned transition opportunities into goals. The Kings are known for limiting their opponents' scoring chances, but the Sharks laid siege to goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was removed after allowing five goals in two periods.

"I think the intensity of both teams is going to make holes here and there. That's what we wanted to do," Sharks forward James Sheppard said. "It wasn't completely wide open, but it was hard and fast-paced. We were lucky enough to be a lot faster in some situations. We were happy with the start we had."

After being thoroughly dominated in the first two periods, the Kings rallied with three goals in the third and will try carry that play into Game 2 in this building Sunday night (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-W, CSN-CA).

"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. 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."

Joe Thornton put the Sharks in front 3:06 into the opening period. Brent Burns chased down the puck in the left corner to negate an icing call, and eventually turned and skated it behind the net. Burns one-handed a pass with Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr marking him to the slot, and Thornton deflected Joe Pavelski's low backhanded attempt near the edge of the crease past Quick.

San Jose struck twice in the final minute before the first intermission. Both goals came on transition plays and on fortunate bounces. Sheppard muffed a one-timer from Tommy Wingels on a 3-on-2 break, but the puck trickled right to rookie Tomas Hertl near the left post for a tap-in at 19:08.

The Sharks caught the Kings off guard again when Sheppard intercepted the puck at the San Jose blue line and ignited a 2-on-1 the other way. Matthew Nieto whiffed on a one-timer from Patrick Marleau, but he regrouped and slid a pass back to Marleau for a goal with 3.2 seconds left in the period and a 3-0 lead at the break.

"First period, [we were] chasing the puck," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "You're not going to beat a team like that chasing the puck around the ice."

Raffi Torres, who missed the last 17 games of the regular season with an injury, made it 4-0 at 12:57 of the second period. Vlasic retrieved the puck from the San Jose end of the ice while both teams changed players, but the Kings were slow to pressure him as he skated into the Los Angeles zone. Vlasic's shot rang off the post behind Quick, and Torres was able to corral the loose puck in the high slot and snap one past the goaltender.

Like Torres, Hertl also missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury. The Sharks rookie was injured on a hit by Brown in December.

"It's great," Vlasic said. "You need that to go far. To win the Cup, you need depth and we showed that tonight."

Vlasic made it 5-0 on the power play with 3:31 remaining in the period. San Jose's Jason Demers thwarted a potential shorthanded breakaway by Mike Richards at one end; on the return rush, Hertl set up a trailing Vlasic on a 4-on-3 at the other end for a shot through Quick's legs.

Rookie Martin Jones replaced Quick to start the third period, and the Kings spent much of the period peppering Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.

A pair of young defensemen put shots through screens early in the third period. Jake Muzzin's shot from the left side beat Niemi at 2:01 after a drop pass from Anze Kopitar. Slava Voynov cut the lead to 5-2 at 6:55 when he knocked down a clearing attempt by Niemi and shrugged off a check from Sheppard before snapping in a shot from the right circle.

Jeff Carter's shot from the left wing went off Trevor Lewis and past Niemi with 6:01 remaining the third, and this blowout was suddenly a two-goal game at 5-3, but Burns hit the empty net from near his own blue line with 54.7 seconds to seal the victory.

"I don't know that there's going to be any more 5-0 games and if there is, we're going to have to have a little more composure than we did in the third period," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But I have a sneaky suspicion we don't have to worry about it too much. If we do, then great, we'll deal with it when it comes."

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