SAN JOSE -- The Sharks did the very necessary thing Tuesday night. They beat the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, and turned a best-of-seven series into a best-of-three. With momentum.
The Sharks also proved their point. Don't discount that portion of the equation, either.
Last week after they blew a lead in the final two minutes and lost Game 2 in Los Angeles to go down 0-2 in the series, there was much bravura talk by the Sharks' that the crushing defeat would not affect them. A few players expressed their belief that they were the better team than the Kings, even if the scoreboard didn't show it.
We've heard so many teams in so many sports make those sorts of statements over the years. How many back it up?
Well, at least one team.
"We were happy with our effort in Game 2," said Logan Couture late Tuesday after he'd scored the Sharks' winning power-play goal for the second straight game. "We obviously lost that game. But we tried to build off it."
And remarkably, they did. Tuesday night was no easy night at the rink for them. The game followed almost the same pattern as Game 2, the week previous. The Sharks dominated the first period, held service in the second period, then held on for dear life in the third against the best the Kings could muster.
This time, however, Los Angeles did not score two goals in the final two minutes to tie and win the game. The Kings pulled within a goal halfway through the third and then poured it on even more. The Sharks might have been running on fumes in those final moments, poking and clawing desperately to clear the puck or diving to block shots. But the desperation succeeded.
And that's why the series is headed back to Staples Center in L.A. for Game 5 on Thursday night -- with a guarantee that there will also be a Game 6 on Sunday back at HP Pavilion, where the Sharks had the best home record in the NHL this season and where they remain undefeated in the playoffs.
Dan Boyle, the Shark defenseman who'd been one of those expressing his opinion that his team was a slight cut above the Kings even after losing in Game 2, refused to gloat after Tuesday's victory about his hockey correctness.
"We knew if we kept playing that way, we would give ourselves a very good chance to win," Boyle said. "We felt confident about that with our group when we came back here, unlike sometimes in years past when you ... questioned some things."
Boyle left that statement hanging, not adding any details. But the history books contain all the grimy details about Shark teams of yore, who looked so flashy and skilled but at a certain point hit a playoff wall and melted.
This 2013 version of our beloved Los Tiburones must contain an anti-melt gene. Because their work in Games 3 and 4, trying to rally from adversity, was impressive. Couture snapped back from his leg injury to score the big goals. Joe Thornton's line with the Tasmanian Devil of hockey, Brent Burns, gave the Kings all sorts of problems. The third line centered by Scott Gomez kept the Kings busy and bothered. Antii Niemi, the goalie, allowed one goal in each of the two HP Pavilion games.
And none of that matters moving ahead, although it's probably better to enter a game with a two-game winning streak than a two-game losing streak. The Kings are still the defending Stanley Cup champions. Their fierceness in the third period Tuesday showed their mettle.
"They brought it," Couture said. "We knew they would. But except for that power-play goal in the third, we kept them out."
"It's going to get tougher," Boyle said. "As you get older in this game, that's what you realize. As hard as it was tonight, it's going to be harder in the next game. We're obviously playing a very good team."
Three times before in franchise history, the Sharks have rallied from an 0-2 deficit to tie up a series at 2-2. But all three times, they've gone on to lose the next two games and be eliminated. One more victory would put them in uncharted waters.
But at least they're sailing into Game 5 with a headwind.