LOS ANGELES -- You get the feeling this Sharks-Kings series will go seven games.

The Sharks have to hope so, anyway.

You get the feeling that after Thursday night's 3-0 victory by Los Angeles -- by far the Kings' best performance of the series- -- the Sharks will look at the video and see how uninspiring they were except for brief spurts. They'll see how they absolutely deserved to fall behind in the series, three games to two. Then they'll find new oxygen in Game 6 on Sunday back at HP Pavilion in front of a loud crowd and tie up the series again.

The Sharks have to hope so, anyway.

You get the feeling that, with two goalies who are playing like magicians and stopping pucks with moves bordering on the supernatural, this series is going to come down to the final seconds of a Game 7 here at Staples Center next Tuesday evening. And one player on one team will make one play to decide it.

The Sharks have to hope so, anyway.

And then they have to hope that one of their own players is the decisive decider.

No Shark wanted to be one Thursday, which was the problem. Their best player was the aforementioned goalie, Antti Niemi. He was brilliant at times as he fended off shot after shot by a Kings team that was plainly out to overcome its tendency to start slowly in previous games of the series. But he couldn't fend off everything.


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Niemi allowed two goals, one when he couldn't pounce on a puck that deflected off a scrum of players in front of him before it was tapped in by the Kings' Anze Kopitar. The other goal happened just as an L.A. power play expired when Niemi was screened. The third goal was an empty netter.

"I saw the first one come on my blocker side but then it hit something, almost fell behind the guy," Niemi said.

He, too, is looking forward to the next game at the Tank.

"I think we have the better energy level at home," said Niemi.

If nothing else, Thursday should settle any questions about whether momentum carries over from one game to the next in playoff hockey. After the Sharks' two victories in San Jose to tie up the series, one school of thought was that they'd turned a corner against the Kings and might steal a road victory in Game 5.

The bromide holds, though. In hockey, momentum is the next faceoff. Los Angeles was ready to hit and create scoring opportunities.

"I think their desperation level went up," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the Kings. "That was the biggest change. Their lines played well. Our lines can play better."

Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings scores a goal past Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks and in front of Dan Boyle #22 to take a 1-0 lead during
Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings scores a goal past Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks and in front of Dan Boyle #22 to take a 1-0 lead during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 23, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

McLellan also called out his entire roster, more or less, saying: "This was a team loss. It wasn't just a few guys."

Darryl Sutter, the Kings' head coach, seemed to agree from the opposite side, saying some of his men had their best nights.

"The teams are close enough, I don't think there are gaps from game to game in the teams," Sutter said. "I think there's gaps from game to game in terms of individual performances."

The overall mission of the Kings on Thursday was obvious: To stop the Sharks' top two lines' tendency to forecheck the puck and keep it in the San Jose offensive zone for chance after chance. That's what happened in large portions of Game 3 and in the first half of Game 4.

To assist in the quest, Sutter shuffled some of his forwards. It must have worked. The Kings dominated zone time through the first two periods Thursday. And during a stretch that spanned the periods, the Sharks went almost 18 minutes without a shot on net. Even on power plays, they didn't produce much that bothered Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

"We've just got to have more poise," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of the power-play issues.

The focus now is to get back to Los Angeles next week. The Kings now have gone two months without losing a game at Staples Center. Their last home defeat was on March 23, to Vancouver. Which means they'll be due to lose next Tuesday when -- or if -- the series returns.

The Sharks have to hope so, anyway.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.