Jonathan Quick used his pads, glove and just about every other part of his equipment and body to make sure the Los Angeles Kings would hold onto this big lead and stay alive in their playoff series against San Jose.
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Quick made a Los Angeles playoff-record 51 saves and Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds teamed up for a pair of first-period goals to lead the Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Sharks in Game 5 on Saturday night.
”That’s a lot of shots, a lot of saves,” defenseman Matt Greene said. ”He played huge for us. He’s been doing it all year for us. It’s not a one-time thing. He’s been stealing games for us to get us into this situation. He did it again tonight.”
Dustin Penner added his first goal in more than a month in a big first period for the Kings, who cut San Jose’s series lead to 3-2 by bouncing back after a pair of home losses put them on the brink of elimination.
The Sharks outshot the Kings 52-22 but failed to end the third all-California playoff series in NHL history at home. San Jose will try to wrap up the series in Game 6 on Monday night in Los Angeles, where the Sharks won twice, including a comeback from 4-0 down in Game 3.
”If we were expecting another miracle, it won’t happen,” coach Todd McLellan said. ”We’ve used our mulligan up. It’s not going to happen again.”
The Kings knocked out Antti Niemi with three goals on their first four shots in the first 8:42 of the game and didn’t fall apart after that as they did in Game 3 at home.
Los Angeles took a 4-0 lead with a goal in the opening minute of the second period to knock out Niemi. But San Jose scored five goals in the second period to tie it and then became just the fourth team ever to overcome a four-goal deficit and win a playoff game when Devin Setoguchi scored in overtime.
Quick made sure the Sharks never got rolling in this game, stopping all 19 shots in the first period and standing tall after Patrick Marleau woke up the crowd when he poked a rebound early in the second.
”It doesn’t matter how many goals they score in one game,” Quick said. ”The next game is a clean slate and you start over. Not too many emotions going in, just trying to be even keel and make the saves that help your team win.”
Quick made a tough save on Dany Heatley after Ryane Clowe made a nifty pass on a three-on-two advantage and then helped kill of San Jose’s second power play of the game late in the period to maintain the two-goal lead heading into the third.
Both goalies came up with big stops early in the third, with Antero Niittymaki making a diving, glove save to rob Drew Doughty, and Quick answering with a pad stop on a shot from in front of the crease by Kyle Wellwood.
Logan Couture, who hit the post in the second period, got the puck all alone in front of the net midway through the third after a turnover at the blue line, but was robbed by Quick.
”At times you get lucky and the puck hits you,” Quick said. ”You find yourself in the right place at the right time, which was the case a few times there where a quick pass out and it hits your pad instead of going off the post and in like it did the last couple of nights.”
Quick also helped kill two penalties later in the third, part of an impressive bounce-back performance after allowing six goals in each of the past two games.
”Jonathan Quick always has the ability to come back with a solid game,” coach Terry Murray said. ”We needed him tonight. There’s no question a goaltender will win you one game. That’s just the way it is. At the end of the day he’s the difference. He’s the reason why we’re still alive in the series.”
The fans at the soldout Shark Tank came ready to celebrate a clincher, waving their white pompoms and chanting ”Beat L.A.!” just before the opening faceoff. That frenzied environment didn’t last long thanks to three goals in a span of just over 5 minutes.
The outburst started when Rob Scuderi’s point shot was deflected by Clifford and then Simmonds into the net after Niemi was unable to clear the puck. Simmonds and Clifford teamed up again for Los Angeles’ next goal following a turnover at the blue line by Dan Boyle. Niemi made a glove save on Simmonds on a 2-on-1, but Clifford was there to knock the rebound in to make it 2-0.
Just over a minute later, the Kings took advantage of a bad bounce off the boards and Penner beat Niemi from the high slot to end a 17-game stretch without a goal.
While Niemi got pulled, there was plenty of blame to go around for the Sharks. Each of the three defensive pairings and three of the four lines were on the ice for one of the goals, with Joe Pavelski’s line the only spared a minus-1 rating for the period.
”It was just bang, bang,” Clowe said. ”A couple turnovers and all the sudden you have to score four or five goals to win. It wears on you a little bit mentally, and you kind of force it around the net and you fill like you have to score every chance you get or this could be it.”
NOTES: Murray improved to 50-50 in his career in the playoffs. … F Scott Parse (hip surgery) was in Kings’ lineup for the first time since Nov. 15, replacing Alexei Ponikarovsky. … The Sharks also made a change, putting Jamie McGinn on the fourth line in place of Ben Eager.