SAN JOSE, Calif. – Buoyed by a loud crowd and another early power-play goal, the San Jose Sharks matched Los Angeles’ three home wins with a third straight victory over the Kings at the Shark Tank.
Now this all-California series comes down to a winner-take-all game on Los Angeles’ home ice.
Joe Thornton got San Jose off to a fast start with a power-play goal in the first period and TJ Galiardi added a goal in the second to help the Sharks force a decisive seventh game with a 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions on Sunday.
“We wanted this opportunity,” said Joe Pavelski, who set up Thornton’s goal. “We wanted to go play. We feel like we’ve played some good games there before. It’s been a while since we’ve won, so we’re due.”
Antti Niemi made 24 saves as the Sharks earned their third 2-1 home win of the series.
Game 7 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles. While the Kings seemingly have the advantage of home ice that has been so paramount this series, road teams in NHL history are 8-8 in seventh games of series where the home team has won the first six games, according to STATS LLC.
“It’s followed the script. Home team wins back and forth,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s time for us to get there and try to change the story. We’re going to have to play a much better game than we did last time in that building. But they earned the right for home ice. It’s our job to take it away from them.”
Dustin Brown scored the lone goal for Los Angeles and Jonathan Quick made 24 saves. The Kings have lost 11 of 12 road games but have been unbeatable at home, winning all six playoff games and 13 straight at Staples Center since the end of the regular season.
“It’s come down to one game,” forward Mike Richards said. “We’re a confident, comfortable team at home. The fans are loud and behind us. It should be an exciting game.”
The Kings tried to end it in San Jose, putting pressure on Niemi early in the final period in search of the equalizer. But they couldn’t break through against a strong forecheck late to the delight of the loud crowd chanting “Beat LA! Beat LA!” from the start of the night.
Los Angeles managed just one shot on goal in the final 2:50.
“We showed more push than in the past when we kind of sat on the lead a little bit more. I liked it,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “We talked about it. We always talked about it. We had a little push there and had a few looks in the third.”
“Every game has been close,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “I’m sure it’s not a shock it’s come to a Game 7. I’m sure both teams didn’t want it to go this far. Right now, it doesn’t matter how we win it, just that we win it.”