LOS ANGELES — San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan did not like the way overtime was playing out Tuesday night at Staples Center.
After the Sharks had dominated the second half of regulation in Game 3 of this Western Conference First Round series, the Los Angeles Kings had the first five shots on goal in the extra session. McLellan sent Joe Pavelski onto the ice for a defensive zone faceoff with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, and hoped they would help calm the Sharks after an erratic few minutes.
They went and won the game instead.
Marleau’s shot 6:20 into overtime went off the stick of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and past an unsuspecting Jonathan Quick, and the Sharks claimed a 4-3 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
“We need to settle our team down, and those are three guys I trust a lot,” McLellan said. “In that situation, we needed that one shift where we could settle everything down and relax a little bit, play the way we’re supposed to. They got the goal before we settled.”
Voynov had a chance to get the puck out of the Kings zone, but his pass did not connect with Trevor Lewis. The puck went to Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan at the left point, and he put it back into the left corner.
It ended up on Jarret Stoll’s stick, but Pavelski poked it away and to Marleau with a one-handed whack. Marleau backhanded the puck and it fluttered into the net for his 59th career playoff goal and 99th point.
“It feels good, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Marleau said.
McLellan has used Pavelski on the wing of the first line and in the middle of the third unit at different points this season and in each place over the past two games. The right-handed Pavelski is the coach’s go-to guy for a faceoff on the right side of the ice (Joe Thornton and Couture are both left-handed shots), and it wasn’t the first time he was on the ice as a member of the second line in this contest as well.
The shift started, like so many have this season, with Pavelski winning the faceoff.
“[Mike] Richards was [facing] me all night and he had won most of them against me,” Pavelski said. “It was good to snap it back and get a chance to go play.”
It was the second fluky goal of the game for the Sharks, who can now close out the Kings in Game 4 here on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET,RDS, TSN, NBCSN, FS-SW, PRIME). Quick made 36 saves in the loss, including 22 in the third period, to help the Kings get to overtime.
This was by far the best game Los Angeles has played in the series, but it wasn’t quite enough. The Kings fixed many of the problems that plagued them in Games 1 and 2, but now face the daunting task of needing to beat the Sharks four straight times.
“It’s not good enough,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “At this point in the series we need to find a way to win the game. That didn’t happen. We’re in a bigger hole and we’ve got to figure it out.”
The Kings had won eight straight games against the Sharks in this building, including all four in a seven-game series victory last season. San Jose also became the first team from the West to break serve in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Prior to Tuesday, San Jose’s most-recent win here was a 6-5 overtime victory April 5, 2012.
“It’s not just playoffs, it’s been regular season, it’s been a while,” Pavelski said. “It feels good. It’s another step in this series, they’ll be coming at us against next game.”
The Sharks stormed out to a 2-0 lead in this series with an explosion of offense against the typically-stingy Kings. San Jose scored 13 times at SAP Center, including 12 on Quick, en route to 6-3 and 7-2 victories.
This contest was much more like what everyone expected from two of the best teams in the NHL and two of the top Stanley Cup contenders.
Jeff Carter put the Kings in front 51 seconds into the third period. Anze Kopitar carried the puck into the zone with Los Angeles on the power play, and when no one picked him up near the right point he skated to the top of the circle for a shot that Carter deflected past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi (28 saves).
The Sharks responded with a tying goal at 9:17 of the third, three seconds after Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez was let out of the penalty box. Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s original shot never made it to the net, but Tomas Hertl had four rebound chances before finally slipping the puck past Quick. It was Hertl’s second goal of the series, and second in five games since returning from a knee injury sustained Dec. 19 against these Kings.
Los Angeles scored twice early in the second period to take a 2-1 lead, but Southern California native Matt Nieto scored his career postseason goal to even the contest at 2-2.
Nieto, who grew up a Kings fan in Long Beach, Calif., tipped a shot from the right point by Jason Demers past Quick at 9:17 of the second period. Quick was knocked to the ice just before Demers shot, but the contact was from Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr and the goal was allowed.
“It was real special to get my first playoff goal in this building, and it was even more special that I had family in the building,” said Nieto, whose father and sister were among the patrons in the sold-out arena.
Brent Burns had the lone goal of the first period and probably one of the least likely of his career. Burns wound up for a slap shot from the top of the left circle, but he flubbed the shot. The puck knuckled into the net with the trajectory of a flop shot in golf, and fooled Quick at 3:16.
Los Angeles forged a 2-1 lead with goals from Stoll and Marian Gaborik. Tyler Toffoli fed Stoll with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer on the power play at 4:48 of the second. It was the first goal of the series for Stoll, who missed most of the 2013 Western Conference Semifinal series between these teams after he was concussed on a hit by San Jose forward Raffi Torres.
Gaborik added his first of the series at 7:59 on a highlight-reel goal. He collected the puck near his own blue line and led a 3-on-2 charge toward the other end of the ice. Gaborik blew by Hannan and cut across the crease before flicking a backhand shot past Niemi.
McLellan said the Sharks benefitted from a strong shift from the top line right after Gaborik’s goal, and then Nieto scored shortly after that. The Sharks outshot the Kings 32-13 from Gaborik’s goal until the start of overtime.
“They’re a good hockey club, I’m not saying because they’re up 3-0 in the series. That’s a really good hockey club over there,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “It’s a tough hill and we won’t go quietly away, that’s for sure.”