Justin Williams reached back and delivered some of his Game 7 playoff magic for the Kings in Game 4.
For the Kings, it might as well have been Game 7.
Justin Time. Or should that be Just In Time?
With the Kings facing playoff elimination against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, Williams, who had been without a point in the first three games, scored twice in the Kings' 6-3 victory over the Sharks in Game 4 at Staples Center.
San Jose leads the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series, three games to one. Game 5 will be on Saturday in San Jose.
“We're going into the cage,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of SAP Center. “Cages are good.”
Marian Gaborik added two goals for the Kings, giving him three in the last two games, and the other goals came from rookie Tyler Toffoli and captain Dustin Brown, who scored an empty-netter with 1:28 remaining for his first goal of the series.
“I made a mistake myself of thinking about how we were going to win up there,” Sutter said. “Two good hockey clubs. If you look at the first five minutes, the Sharks took it to us, big-time. Jonathan [Quick] aced it in the first few minutes and then we scored.”
He added that he thought about Game 5 on Wednesday night.
“Why wouldn't it [cross my mind]?” Sutter said. “I know the sky is falling when you lose a game.”
Williams earned the tag of Mr. Game 7, seeming slightly embarrassed by the nickname, when he scored twice against the Sharks in Game 7 last year, giving the Kings the series win in their second-round playoff confrontation.
“It's obviously not like a Game 7 because it's not do-or-die for them but it's do-or-die for us,” Williams said. “You've got to lay it all on the line. They're not typical Kings games right now.
“We're just trying to make this a series. They were up 3-0, obviously in the driver's seat. We're just going to do what we can to push back. It's 3-1, it's certainly not anything to write home about. We're certainly happy we got a win, but we feel we have a long road to go obviously.”
Williams has scored five goals in four career Game 7s. The Kings will have to win twice more to reach that stage, but Sutter noted after Game 3 that the climb back was a “tough hill and we won't go quietly.”
The first step up the mountain was a big one.
For the first time in the series, the Kings were able to get to Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who was pulled just 34 seconds into the third period, giving way to backup Alex Stalock, after Gaborik scored his second of the game to make it 5-2.
Niemi faced 26 shots and gave up five goals. He couldn't exactly be faulted on what turned out to be one of the game's turning points, the second goal from Williams. It came at 16:07 of the second period and h broke a 2-2 tie. He had scored earlier, on the power play, to make it 2-1 in the second period.
The Kings have been victimized by all sorts of bad bounces and deflections — welcome to playoff hockey — but finally got a good break on the second Williams goal. Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell's shot caromed wildly off the end boards and the puck bounced to Williams, about knee high, at the left post.
The game of moves and countermoves started with Sutter mixing up his lines, putting Brown back with center Anze Kopitar and Gaborik on the left wing. Kopitar, meanwhile, was recognized for his defensive abilities earlier on Thursday morning when the NHL announced the Selke Trophy finalists.
The other finalists are Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and the Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron.