SAN JOSE — It started with a surprise lineup change, a surge and a resounding thud.
The sound was the Kings landing in deep trouble after blowing a two-goal lead in Game 2 and becoming utterly discombobulated in a woeful 7-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Pavilion on Sunday night.
In fact, the Kings actually led, 2-0, after one period on goals by defenseman Jake Muzzin and forward Trevor Lewis. The wheels started creaking and the Kings went off the rails as they allowed seven straight goals. San Jose led, 3-2, after two periods and added four more in the third to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Kings.
Game 3 will be Tuesday at Staples Center.
“It obviously stinks sitting here talking after another lopsided loss, but they did what they set out to do,” Kings forward Justin Williams said. “Now it is response time. Now we’re coming back to our rink. We won the first two in our arena last year and they came back and won the next two in theirs. We’re looking to repeat that but we have to start with one.
“Every playoff series run through the playoffs is different and has a different feel. We need to get back. We have one day in between to get ourselves together, regroup, refresh and put this one behind us and take a step in the right direction and have some push back.”
The Sharks set a playoff record for most goals at home, and another for consecutive goals in a playoff game.
Those are the dry facts, which can’t quite capture how dramatically the game turned and how the Sharks got the Kings to unravel in such rapid fashion, starting with their gritty fourth line as Mike Brown and Raffi Torres scored their first two goals.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s going to be like this for seven games,” Torres said. “We’ve been fortunate the first two games. We’ll really find out what kind of team we have going into L.A. It’s tough to win on the road, especially going into LA.
“We know we need to get on their [defense]. Make it tough for them to go back for pucks. Just make it difficult for them to make plays and get their confidence up.”
The only area of suspense was whether Kings Coach Darryl Sutter was going to perform another act of mercy and replace starting goalie Jonathan Quick with Martin Jones, the way he did in Game 1.
This time, Sutter left Quick in.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton said previously that he didn’t think it was possible that they would be able to score five goals. He was right: They scored seven.
Quick was victimized time and again on the stick side. He has allowed 12 goals in five periods of action against the Sharks. When the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, he gave up 29 goals in 20 games.
In his defense, well, he did not have much of one. Defenseman Matt Greene was a minus-four in under 14 minutes of action, including a minus-three in the second period alone. Greene was a surprise insertion in the lineup as the Kings opted to go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards, as Sutter took out forward Jordan Nolan, who played in Game 1.
Greene had plenty of company on the minus side. Defenseman Alec Martinez was a minus-three and even center Anze Kopitar, known for his solid two-way play, was a minus-three.
There were so many shortcomings, it was hard to capture the most egregious ones.
“I don’t really know if it’s one thing in particular,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “Again, we gave up a lot of odd-man rushes. Even in the first when we were up 2-0, they had a lot of good chances. We need all 20 guys to be on top of their game.
“If their fourth line can have that big an impact on a game, we have to have a response. And we didn’t have a response from anybody, really.”
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: “I think their [James] Sheppard line and [Andrew] Desjardins line dominated the second period. We didn’t have an answer for that.”
The response was muted until the game was well of hand and it deteriorated with 5:35 left with a handful of 10-minute misconducts, on both sides, and Kings center Mike Richards receiving a double minor for spearing Logan Couture.
“He speared me. Right in front of the ref,” Couture said. “I guess we’ll see what happens. He got me pretty good, a full-on spear right in front of the ref. ... You could tell they were frustrated and they were running around and, I guess, being cheap.”
Said Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr: “We got caught on some bad changes tonight and also it starts with the offensive zone. That’s where the odd-man rushes really start. We need to make sure that we’re being responsible with the puck and we have that high guy so if they have three guys, we’ve got three guys back.”
Brown attempted to draw a parallel between this series and last season. But Quick was never exposed so much and so often.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it new,” Brown said. “We were in the same situation last year. We came up here twice and didn’t get anything that we wanted and we got our [behinds] kicked pretty much. Now we go home and we take care of our home ice.”
At the morning skate, Kings center Jarret Stoll had spoken about looking at the series, breaking it down into a smaller component.
“It’s such a long series you can’t look at the whole big picture, you’ve got to just worry about finding a way to win one game,” Stoll said. “We just want to find a way to get a split here and go home. It’s not Game 7 but that’s the mentality we need. We need a Game 7 attitude.”
For the Kings, the Game 7 attitude didn’t even last beyond the second intermission, not even beyond 25 minutes of Game 2.