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Johnston: Beware of Sharks in second round

Ex-coach says San Jose gained confidence in first-round victory against Kings

by Shawn P, Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

For additional insight into the Western Conference First Round series between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks, has enlisted the help of Mike Johnston to break down the action. Johnston will be checking in throughout the series.

Johnston, 59, was most recently the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, compiling a 58-37-15 record during his tenure. He was coach and general manager of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks from 2008 to 2014. He also has been an assistant coach for the Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Johnston was as surprised as many that the San Jose Sharks were able to regroup in the third period of Game 5 after surrendering a three-goal lead and dominate the third period to forge a 6-3 victory on Saturday at Staples Center and eliminate the Los Angeles Kings from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I thought San Jose looked a little defeated at the start of the third period and the Kings had been carrying the play for a while," Johnston said. "But, that was a big goal by Joonas Donskoi. He showed some real strength on the rush. He is so strong on his skates and I thought that play was impressive."

Video: SJS@LAK, Gm5: Donskoi nets his second for the lead

Donskoi's goal, his second of the game, gave the Sharks a 4-3 lead and they never looked back.

For Johnston, that the victory was so convincing and came courtesy of a dominating road performance illustrates how dangerous this San Jose team can be in the Western Conference Second Round.

The Sharks will face either the Anaheim Ducks or the Nashville Predators. Anaheim leads that best-of-7 series 3-2 and Game 6 is Monday night (8 p.m. ET; CBNC, SN, TVAS, FS-W, FS-TN).

"That was a big psychological hurdle to get over for the Sharks," he said. "I think it is huge for them. In the playoffs, you want to have the feeling on the bench that you can handle anything.

"They feel comfortable now because they just beat out their biggest rival and they have a lot of good things happening."

The Kings and Sharks have played each other in the playoffs 19 times in the past three seasons. In 2013, the Kings won a seven-game series in which the home team won every game. In 2014, the Kings were down 0-3 but rallied to win in seven.

But the Sharks won this series in five games thanks to a complete game.

Video: SJS@LAK, Gm5: Pavelski pads the Sharks' lead in 3rd

Their top line was dominant throughout the series and No. 1 center and captain Joe Pavelski had five goals.

Depth came to the fore in Game 5 as Donskoi, Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto each scored for the first time in the playoffs.

Brent Burns was the best defenseman on the ice for the majority of the series. Goaltender Martin Jones, in his first playoff series as a starter, outplayed Jonathan Quick.

The power play scored five times in the series, including three in one game.

"Plus, they are good on the road," Johnston said. "That's important in case they drop something at home, they have confidence they can win on the road. They have that experience now."

The Sharks went 3-0 against the Kings at Staples Center, outscoring them by five goals.

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