When have the Kings done anything the normal way, in victory or in defeat?
Blown out of the first two games of their playoff series against San Jose, their season on the line after they lost the third game in overtime, the Kings on Monday clawed their way back to even footing with the stumbling Sharks, whose long list of playoff underachievement might soon have a new addition.
A three-goal third period, triggered by Justin Williams' controversial score through the pads of goaltender Alex Stalock, propelled the Kings to a 4-1 victory at a rowdy Staples Center and launched them to a seventh game Wednesday at San Jose. It's as unlikely a scenario as could be imagined after they were outscored, 13-5, in losing the first two games.
"All the experts said we'd be playing a Game 7. They said that before the series started," said Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who stopped 25 shots Monday and has saved 55 of 56 shots over the last two games.
"So obviously it's a little unconventional how we got here, but we're here."
The Ducks — who advanced to the second round by eliminating Dallas in six games — and a potential date with history await the winner of Wednesday's game. If the Kings prevail, they'd become only the fourth NHL team to win a best-of-seven playoff series after having lost the first three games. It would also create the first playoff series between the two Southland NHL teams.
"Going into a series, I don't think either team or anybody watching the series would have thought this would be how the events and the games went," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "But at the end of the day it comes down to a Game 7, which is probably to be expected."
The first signs the Kings still had life appeared in the third game, a 4-3 overtime loss at home. Their big players, the ones instrumental in their 100-point season and in contributing to the NHL's best defensive team, began to play big. Marian Gaborik scored. So did Jeff Carter. They're the Kings' most dangerous scoring threats. For them to be unleashed was a significant plus.
"Once your big guys kind of start going, it gets the team into sync a little bit more and everyone can fill the role that they need to fill," Brown said.
Gaborik scored twice in the 6-3 victory in Game 4 that enabled the Kings to stave off elimination the first time. Williams scored twice in that game, too. Another positive sign was a goal by rookie right wing Tyler Toffoli, the game-winner in that contest. When he duplicated that in Game 5, a 3-0 victory at San Jose, the Kings gained new, greater depth that the Sharks couldn't defend.
The Kings' formula was slightly different Monday in Game 6. They scored early and got the crowd involved when Williams redirected a perfectly timed pass from Drew Doughty, but they had to kill off a five-on-three disadvantage that lasted 1 minute 38 seconds in the second period.
For Anze Kopitar, it seemed interminable.
"Halfway through I was checking the scoreboard for how much time we had, and it was quite a bit of time," he said. "At that point you're just trying to get in the shooting lanes and not give them the opportunity to pass it through our triangle, and I thought Drew and [Willie Mitchell] did a great job of getting in front of shots. When they missed it, Quickie was there."
San Jose tied it at 1-1 while at even strength, but Williams' goal, at 11:56 of the third period, withstood a video review and put them ahead. Kopitar, with a pair of goals 1:15 apart, clinched it.
All of which takes them back to San Jose, which doesn't intimidate them.
"We've won there plenty of times over the years. We didn't need Game 5 to prove that we could win there. We knew that," Quick said. "We needed Game 5 to be able to play Game 6.
"It's zero-zero. A 60-minute game. That's it."
Kopitar said the Kings must now play their best game against the Sharks. "I'm pretty sure they're going to be fired up. The building's going to be loud and we're going to have to be ready for it," he said.
The only surprise now would be if they're not ready for a shot at history and a playoff encounter with the Ducks.
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