SAN JOSE, Calif. — It was a one-sided cage-match of sorts, but that’s exactly how the Kings wanted it. Facing elimination, the Kings went into a hostile San Jose arena and proved that their Game 4 win wasn’t a fluke.
The Kings are nearly as close to history as they are to elimination, as their 3-0 win Saturday night in at the SAP Center, or the "Cage" as it has become more affectionately known by most of the Southland, forces a Game 6 Monday night at the Staples Center.
There is still work to be done, but Sharks now hold only a 3-2 series lead in the opening round of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
"If anything, it feels a little more daunting," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "We came this far to get two and now we need to get two more. We need to take it one at a time and that puts a little more pressure on us because now we can kind of smell it."
Game 6 will be the mental challenge for @lakings. Game 4 and Game 5 easy to get up for. Can't assume anything. Sutter Time. #54F
Everything that was working against them in the first three games worked for them in the last two. Saturday night, the Kings were aggressive in the Sharks’ zone, dominating the possessions and coming hard on the forecheck. They neutralized the Sharks’ depth up the middle and goaltender Jonathan Quick had only a few close calls and 30 saves.
"When we have Quicky back there, it’s always solid," said center Anze Kopitar. "I thought we were able to keep everything to the outside and we’re confident enough that, if the puck is coming from the outside, he’s going to make the save."
It was the knuckle-dragging, staunch defensive effort that has typically characterized the team. It looked as though they were finally back to playing Kings hockey.
"I thought tonight was probably our best defensive game so far this series," Doughty said. "We don’t want Quicky to have to stand on his head every night. We need to be doing the things that will make it a little easier for him so I thought we did that tonight."
Tyler Toffoli scored his second goal of the postseason off a feed from Tanner Pearson in the slot and Anze Kopitar buried a rebound later in the first to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.
Just 22 seconds into the second period, Jeff Carter scored on the power play, effectively deflating the sellout crowd of 17,562.
"It’s great to see other guys pitch in," Doughty said. "I thought Toff and Tanner were really, really good tonight and that’s a big reason why we won."
In last year’s Western Conference semifinals, the Kings shut out the Sharks with a 3-0 score in Game 5. It was also the first time Los Angeles won a playoff game in San Jose since Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals.
It was the first time in history the Kings went on the road 3-1 and came away with a victory, and it only took 11 tries. Conversely, it was the first time the Sharks lost a Game 5 at home with a 3-1 series lead.
The confidence has built as the streaks have been snapped, but focus is still on slowing things down and taking them one game at a time.
"We can’t get ahead of ourselves," Doughty said. "Going back to Staples is the thing we want to be doing so we need to get a win and tie this thing up."