LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Joe Thornton knew exactly where he wanted to be as soon as the Sharks killed off a five-minute major penalty that had continued into overtime. He got himself in front of the net.
His instinct proved right, and he scored 2:22 into the extra session Monday night to give San Jose a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings and send the Sharks to a first-round series win.
“You’ve seen this whole series, weird things happen in front of the net. It just spit out nicely and I just gobbled it up,” Thornton said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. It felt great.”
Kyle Wellwood, Jason Demers and Dany Heatley also scored for the Sharks, who wrapped up the all-California series 4-2 and avoided a Game 7 in San Jose.
“It’s nice we don’t have to play Wednesday night. We can rest,” Thornton said. “But we still have a lot of work to do. That was a tough series.”
Justin Williams, Ryan Smyth and rookie Trevor Lewis scored for the Kings, who lost in the opening round for the second straight year and have won just one playoff series since their run to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals with Wayne Gretzky.
“To go out in the first round is really disappointing,” defenceman Jack Johnson said.
Gretzky attended the game, but even having the retired superstar on hand couldn’t boost the Kings to a needed victory. Instead, they ended up losing all three home games in the series and all three overtime games—just like in the ’93 finals when Los Angeles lost three straight OT games to Montreal.
“We had a 4-0 lead at home in Game 3 and two other OT games and were right there,” forward Dustin Brown said. “The difference between winning and losing is that small. They found ways to get goals in OT and we didn’t.”
Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks after being pulled in two of the last three games.
“We had the lead three times, but they kept coming back on us,” Heatley said. “That five-minute penalty kill was huge for us. That’s sometimes how hockey works, you do a good job like that and you get rewarded at the end.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots for Los Angeles. He gave up 16 goals in the team’s three home games.
“We fully believe we could have won it. That’s why we’re so disappointed,” defenceman Drew Doughty said.
The Sharks’ Jamie McGinn received a five-minute major for charging Brad Richardson and an automatic game misconduct at 16:37 of the third period, giving the Kings a power play for the final minutes of regulation.
“We don’t do anything easy,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
The Kings had four shots on goal, including two by Brown, that Niemi stopped to send the game into overtime for the third time in the series.
“Once we killed that off, we thought we had a good chance and we’ll get the momentum after killing that,” Thornton said. “We did, and we ended up winning the series after that.”
The Kings opened overtime with 1:37 left on McGinn’s penalty, but they didn’t manage a shot on goal.
“We didn’t get a lot of opportunities,” Johnson said. “They were very aggressive, which forced us to make plays a little quicker than we wanted to.”
It wasn’t long after that Thornton found the left side of the net open and scored the winning goal, sending him sliding on the ice in celebration.
“It hit a skate and bounced off his tape and I got caught out of position,” a dejected Quick said. “If we played a little better, we could’ve gone longer. We feel like we gave them a few games earlier in the series.”
The Kings rallied a third time to tie the game at 3-3 in the third period. Lewis scored the first playoff goal of his career on a power-play rebound at 11:39 with Demers off for interference.
Heatley’s goal off the right post on a broken play by the Kings gave San Jose its third lead of the game, 3-2 at 8:48 of the third period.
The Kings tied the game 2-2 on Smyth’s rebound goal 18 seconds into the third period.
Demers caught Quick out of the crease to put San Jose in front 2-1 at 16:52 of the second period.
The Kings tied the game 1-1 when Williams fired in a rebound on the power play at 13:27 of the second. Thornton received a double-minor for high-sticking after he struck Richardson in the mouth. Richardson wears a visor, but he pointed to his mouth and picked up something off the ice.
San Jose led 1-0 on Wellwood’s first goal of the playoffs at 2:58 of the middle period. Quick lost his stick and made a swiping move to his right to get it back, but he didn’t and Wellwood went top shelf off Thornton’s assist.
Notes: Los Angeles was 5 for 24 on the power play in the series. … Kings D Rob Scuderi briefly left the game in the second period after taking a skate blade near his eye in a collision with Sharks D Niclas Wallin along the boards. … There were no goals or penalties in the first period, when the Sharks outshot the Kings 16-5. … The Kings fell to 11-6 all-time in Game 6s.