LOS ANGELES -- Put the brooms away.
Though the Sharks tried to make a game of it late, the Los Angeles Kings skated away with a 6-3 victory Thursday night that prevented San Jose from sweeping its first-round playoff series for a second consecutive year.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan had talked before the game about his team's need to match the desperation that everybody knew would be coming from a Los Angeles team determined to avoid elimination.
That, he said after the loss, didn't turn out to be the problem.
"I thought we had some intensity to our game, and I thought we were as desperate as they were," McLellan said. "But we didn't execute anywhere near the way they did."
While McLellan made it clear he wasn't holding his goaltender responsible for giving the Kings life in the series, Los Angeles did chase goalie Antti Niemi from the game less than a minute into the third period.
By that time he had given up two goals to both Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik as well as one to Tyler Toffoli. Dustin Brown would score the Kings' final goal into an empty net.
At the other end of the ice, Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick had his best game of the series, making 36 saves while giving up goals to James Sheppard, Matt Nieto and Joe Pavelski.
Despite the loss, the Sharks said they felt they got what they needed out of the two games at the Staples Center and were already looking ahead to bringing their 3-1 series back to San Jose for Game 5 on Saturday.
"We came down here and did what we were supposed to do," captain Joe Thornton of the split the Sharks achieved. "Now we've got to go home and do our job."
Hoping to counter the size and strength of Thornton and Brent Burns on San Jose's top line, Kings coach Darryl Sutter moved captain Brown up alongside Anze Kopitar and Gaborik on Los Angeles' top line.
The move paid off early and often.
The Sharks fell behind at 4:08 of the first period when Brown fired the puck from the right side boards and the rebound went to Gaborik, who gave the Kings a 1-0 lead.
That held up until the final 20 seconds of the opening period when rookie Tomas Hertl fired a shot on Quick, then sent the rebound to Scott Hannan. Quick made the save on Hannan's shot, but Sheppard batted the rebound into the Kings net with 7.3 seconds left to tie the game 1-1.
To make room for Brown on the Kings' top line, Sutter moved Justin Williams to the third and in the second period, that worked, too.
With Raffi Torres in the penalty box, Williams scored his first goal of the postseason at 3:52 of the second period on a shot that Niemi stopped, then seemed to lose track of as the puck trickled under his pads.
San Jose got that one back at 8:25 when a shot by Patrick Marleau went off Quick's pads directly to Nieto, who chipped it into the Kings net and tied the game at 2-2.
The Sharks looked as if they might get their first lead of the night when Kings center Kyle Clifford went to the penalty box for roughing and Quick was caught out of position several times. Still, even when Pavelski had a wide-open net, the puck stayed out after hitting the stick of Brown.
"It happens quick," Pavelski said. "Bang-bang play, Burnzie keeps it alive. I know the net's wide open. Get good wood on it and it finds their blade and goes wide. It's frustrating."
The Kings took the lead for good when Williams got his second of the night at 16:07, and San Jose's deficit grew to 4-2 at 19:01 when the puck caromed to Toffoli and he fired it into the net before Niemi could recover his position.
Thirty-four seconds into the third period, the Kings made it 5-2 when Kopitar found Gaborik for a 23-foot wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. That ended Niemi's night, as McLellan found an opportunity to get backup Alex Stalock his first playoff experience.
Los Angeles appeared to take a 6-2 lead at 11:10, but the goal was disallowed as Kings forward Jarret Stoll was penalized for cross-checking Brad Stuart just before the puck arrived. And on the power play that followed, Pavelski scored to cut the lead to 5-3 at 11:36.
McLellan said he was most concerned about his team's play in front of its own net.
"When we go back to the goals, it's quite easy to pinpoint some of the mistakes that we made," he said, "and for us to have success moving forward, that has to get cleaned up quickly."
Notebook: Burns taking shots, delivering hits vs. Kings. PAGE 5
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