SAN JOSE -- This one went wrong in so many ways.

The Sharks came out flat-footed Saturday night and squandered their second opportunity to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings from the Stanley Cup playoffs. And before their 3-0 shutout loss was over, they had lost starting goaltender Antti Niemi to a coach's hook and top defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an apparent head injury.

"Tonight was red rotten," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "That's simply put."

Vlasic left the game at 14:09 of the first period when he was hit by Kings forward Jarret Stoll on a play that drew a roughing penalty, and McLellan said the defenseman's status for Monday night's Game 6 is up in the air.

Niemi stuck around a little longer, getting yanked 22 seconds into the second period after giving up the Kings' final goal to Jeff Carter. It was the second straight game that Niemi didn't finish, and his status as the Game 6 starter is somewhat up in the air, too.

"We'll have to make some decisions throughout our lineup at every position," McLellan said, "because we weren't obviously near good enough tonight."

A series that saw the Sharks jump out to a 3-0 lead now is one game away from an anything-can-happen seventh game that would be played Wednesday night back at the SAP Center.

The Sharks came out flat-footed in Game 5 and before the first period was over, Los Angeles had a 2-0 lead on goals by Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar.


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"The plan was to start fast, get it in, simplify, win the faceoffs, get in on the forecheck -- all those sorts of things," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "It didn't really happen. It's tough. You fall behind early, you have to play catch-up and then we got into penalty trouble."

Toffoli's goal at 8:09 of the first came after he deked around James Sheppard, then snapped off a shot from high in the right faceoff circle that beat Niemi, who appeared to have a clear view of the puck. Kopitar scored at 12:52 when Dustin Brown's shot from along the right side boards caromed directly off Niemi's pads to Kopitar, who was all alone in the slot.

The goal that prompted McLellan to change goalies came on a power play when Carter banked in a shot from a harsh angle off Brad Stuart's skate -- the third of 19 shots to get past Niemi.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 30 shots -- 14 of them in the final period -- for his fourth shutout of the Sharks in the three playoff series in which the two teams have met.

Though McLellan left open the question of who will start for San Jose in Game 6, he indicated that pulling the goalie is not always a direct indictment of his play. And Niemi's teammates came to his defense.

"You guys are going to look at Nemo and say it's his fault, this or that," Pavelski said. "I think a lot of guys in this room take a lot of responsibility for it. He gave up five goals the other night and a few early here tonight, but it's more collective than just one guy. We've got his back, he's had our back for long enough."

Backup goalie Alex Stalock stopped all 22 shots he faced over the last two periods, giving the coaching staff something to think about with his own strong performance.

McLellan's postgame concerns went far beyond the goaltending and straight to team speed -- or, more precisely, the lack of it.

"Simply put we were slow," the coach said. "We didn't have legs and we didn't execute well, which made us even slower. We had poor puck support, and that made us slow."

Players tried to downplay the fact the Sharks have lost any momentum gained when they shot out to a 3-0 lead in the series.

"You knew it was going to be a good series," captain Joe Thornton said. "They're a good team, and they're going to come back and make this a series. Now we have to go down there and try to win a game."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

INSIDE
  • Vlasic may miss Game 6
    after hit to head. PAGE 6
  • Kings' goalie Quick back in
    comfort zone.
    PAGE 7