LOS ANGELES — A week ago, the Kings were left for dead. Now, they’re on the verge of history.
A 4-1 Game 6 win Monday night at the Staples Center evened up their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against rival San Jose to 3-3. It was controversial, it was physical and more importantly it was crucial, as the Kings won their third straight to stave off elimination once again.
The Kings became just the ninth team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to force a decisive Game 7, which will be Wednesday night starting at 6:30 p.m. on Prime Ticket in San Jose at the "Cage," as Los Angeles now fondly refers to it.
"Being down 3-0 wasn’t where we wanted to be we but we didn’t think that we couldn’t pull it together," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "Obviously, this is what we needed to push for."
The two biggest moments of the game didn’t come without controversy.
The first one was a two-man advantage the Kings effectively killed off in the second period to protect their 1-0 lead momentarily.
"I thought that was one of the loudest (times) that I’ve ever heard Staples Center cheer after that penalty was killed," said right winger Justin Williams. "I got goosebumps right after it. Obviously, a great point in the hockey game. Unfortunately, they scored right after it, which took a little wind out but we showed up in the third and had a big third period."
The second moment was the first goal of the three-goal third period.
A loose puck underneath goaltender Alex Stalock’s pads was tipped in by Justin Williams for the go-ahead score.
It was reviewed in Toronto, and stood as called, giving L.A. a 2-1 lead.
"The referee didn’t blow the whistle," Williams said. "I tipped it and I couldn’t see it, and the referee didn’t blow the whistle but they both seem to be looking behind the goalie. I took a couple stabs at it and it went in."
But the Sharks didn’t see it like that. The referees failed to signal it right away and the Sharks maintained the Stalock froze the puck and was pushed into the net.
"We got cheated. Simple as that," said head coach Todd McLellan. "I was told that you could see the puck laying behind his feet the whole time, that’s why the whistle didn’t go. It’s pretty clear when you look at it after.
"That was the obvious turning point."
The San Jose defense unraveled following the goal.
Anze Kopitar buried a rebound off of a Williams shot just over a minute later. Kopitar scored again only a little more than a minute after that.
Williams tied his career playoff game-high with three points and has four goals and five points in the last three games. He now has 9 goals in 19 career playoff games against the Sharks but his opponents still say it should be eight.
"It was an innocent shot from the side that ended up getting tipped in front, went between my legs. But from there it was just lying behind my skates," Stalock said. "I donât think the puck goes in the net if I don’t get pushed in. It was something that had to be done for the puck to move into the net."
The game was punctuated with the goon behavior that’s been seen all series.
Jonathan Quick saved a Joe Thornton shot and didn’t let the captain get away. He skated after him and jumped him, causing both teams to throw punches against one another.
"He’s a fiery guy, he cares and he has a lot of pride," said forward Jarret Stoll. "He doesn’t want guys touching him in the crease throughout the course of the game."
That same fire and drive is expected to be on full display in San Jose.
The Kings are just 4-4 in Game 7s and haven’t won one on the road since 1993. The odds might not be favorable, but they weren’t favorable a week ago either.
"We’re excited to play a Game 7, always great games, great atmospheres," Stoll said. "You want to be the hero in those types of games, play well and be counted on as an important part of something like that."