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Sharks Fall Short to Kings

by Jonathan Okanes / San Jose Sharks

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The Sharks now hope the trend continues. And then they don’t.

Unfortunately for San Jose, the trend of the home team winning in the Western Conference Semifinals continued Thursday night at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Kings put consistent pressure on the Sharks the entire evening and registered a 3-0 victory to take a 3 games to 2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Game 6 is Sunday night at HP Pavilion, and the Sharks will look to keep the home team unbeaten in this series. If they can do that, they will force a deciding Game 7 on Tuesday in Los Angeles, and try to snap the home team’s winning streak.

After San Jose outplayed the Kings for much of Games 3 and 4 in San Jose, Los Angeles came out sharp Thursday, spending the better part of the first 10 minutes in the offensive zone. That included easily killing off a Sharks power play after Jeff Carter was sent off for boarding on Matt Irwin, a stretch that included a couple of stretches in the San Jose zone.

The Sharks withstood the Kings’ early pressure, but couldn’t muster many quality scoring chances themselves. And although Los Angeles didn’t own the ice as much as the early stages, it still continued to manufacture its own share of chances. The Kings almost got on the board with 30 seconds left in the period, but San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi made a terrific save on Justin Williams, and then another stop on Drew Doughty moments after.

The Kings began the second period the same as the first, by putting together a series of quality scoring chances. Niemi, who finished with 26 saves, came up with an especially strong stop after a giveaway set up Los Angeles’ Mike Richards with a strong chance.

The Sharks had another power play midway through the second, but again didn’t threaten very seriously. And the Kings had another shorthanded rush that ended with the Kings’ Dustin Brown falling to the ice and shooting anyway on his belly. Niemi was forced to make the save.

Later in the second, the Sharks killed of a charging penalty by Jason Demers, who returned to play in his first game since April 18 because of an injury. San Jose came up with a 2-on-1 as that penalty expired, but Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick made a save of a shot by Logan Couture, who took the feed from Patrick Marleau.

Two minutes after Niemi made an incredible save of a wraparound shot by Carter, the Kings finally broke through when Kyle Clifford’s shot from the point made its way through traffic right in front of the net and the puck found itself in front of Anze Kopitar, who easily punched it in to the left side of the net.

The Kings took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission, and it didn’t take long for them to add to the lead in the third. The Sharks’ T.J. Galiardi had been penalized for goaltender interference late in the second, and the ensuing power play carried over to the third period. With two seconds left on the man-advantage, Los Angeles’ Trevor Lewis won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck squirted back to Slava Voynov, who fired a slap shot that Niemi may not have ever seen and it wound up in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

The Sharks put some consistent pressure on Quick in the moments immediately following Voynov’s goal but couldn’t break through. After that, the teams exchanged a handful of good scoring chances before the Kings closed out the scoring on an empty-net goal by Carter with 31 seconds remaining.

STAR OF THE GAME: Antti Niemi. Despite the loss, the Sharks’ goaltender made a handful of brilliant saves as he was tested all night long by a Kings team that spent extended shifts consistently in the offensive zone.

GAME DATA: The Kings have now won 13 games in a row at home, a stretch that dates back to the regular season. … The Sharks haven’t scored a goal in over 96 minutes. … Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick recorded his seventh career playoff shutout.

INJURY REPORT: For the Sharks, Martin Havlat and Adam Burish continue to be sidelined with injuries. But defenseman Jason Demers returned to play for the first time since April 18. For the Kings, Jarret Stoll is still out with an injury suffered in the first game of the series.

TEAM STATS: Shots on goal – SJ 24, LA 29. Hits – SJ 24, LA 51. Faceoffs – SJ 35, LA 37.

NEXT UP: Game 6 is Sunday night at HP Pavilion. The Sharks will try to keep their season alive and force Game 7 on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

AP Recap

LOS ANGELES - Jonathan Quick made 24 saves in his seventh career playoff shutout, and the Los Angeles Kings moved to the brink of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals with a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 on Thursday night.

Anze Kopitar and Slava Voynov scored, and Jeff Carter added an empty-net goal as the defending Stanley Cup champions won their 13th consecutive home game in dominant fashion and lead the series 3-2.

Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots for the Sharks, who have played more than 96 minutes without a goal since they appeared to be taking control of the series midway through Game 4.

Game 6 is Sunday night at the Shark Tank.

The home team has won every game in the series, and the Kings remained unbeaten at Staples Center since March 23.

After losing the past two games in San Jose and struggling through much of the past three games overall, the Kings rebounded with another stretch of dominant play from their Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie, who also shut out San Jose in the series opener.

Quick won his 27th postseason game, taking sole possession of the franchise record from Kelly Hrudey.

After getting soundly outplayed at the start of the past three games, the Kings met the Sharks' tempo and urgency from the beginning in Game 5. The Kings sharpened their physical game, outmuscling and outhitting the Sharks to take a 3-2 series lead.

Kopitar opened the scoring late in the second period, tapping in a loose puck after a sustained stretch of pressure on Niemi. Voynov then scored 3 seconds after a penalty expired early in the third, firing home his fourth goal in nine games.

Quick finished up from there, making a spectacular point-blank save on Joe Pavelski a few seconds before Carter wrapped it up with an empty-netter.

Los Angeles, 25-4-1 at home this season, has won seven straight home playoff games dating to last season's Stanley Cup clincher against New Jersey.

San Jose substantially outplayed the Kings in the first period of the past three games, and Los Angeles cited a strong start as its key priority for Game 5.

The Kings got it, albeit in a scoreless first period, outshooting the Sharks 9-6 while playing a punishing physical game that slowed down Joe Thornton and hampered San Jose's relentless speed.

The Sharks played roughly 17 minutes without a shot into the second period, but the Kings couldn't cash in several scoring chances in front of Niemi, including golden opportunities for Mike Richards and Justin Williams.

San Jose got several chances of its own, notably with a 2-on-1 break for Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, but Quick kept everything out of his net.

Niemi made a spectacular save on Carter's wraparound chance late in the second period, but that play led to a long stretch of uninterrupted pressure by the Kings.

Kopitar's tap-in included assists for Williams and Kyle Clifford, who replaced Dustin Brown on the Kopitar-Williams line for Game 5.

The goal was just the second of the postseason for Kopitar, who didn't score a goal in the Kings' final 16 regular-season games. The Slovenian center has led Los Angeles in scoring in each of the past six seasons, and he was the postseason's co-scoring leader last summer with 20 points in 20 games.

The Kings scored again when Trevor Lewis won a faceoff against Thornton, who has dominated the circle in the series.

Lewis, who scored the winning power-play goal late in Game 2, got the puck to Voynov for a long shot through traffic immediately after a power play ended, and the Siberian defenseman matched Carter for the team lead with his fourth goal of the playoffs.

The power play resulted from a goalie interference penalty against TJ Galiardi, who drew the Kings' ire Wednesday by claiming Quick embellishes contact with opponents to draw undeserved penalties.

NOTES: After sitting out earlier in the postseason with an injured left ankle, Jason Demers got his first action of the postseason for San Jose, which sat LW Tim Kennedy to make room. Demers, normally a defenseman, usually played forward. The Sharks are playing without injured forwards Marty Havlat and Adam Burish. ... Los Angeles dressed the same lineup as in Game 4, although coach Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines. ... Tom Cruise and producer Jerry Bruckheimer watched the game from seats on the glass.

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