The Kings kept insisting that this playoff series against the San Jose Sharks was far closer than the overall picture indicated.
On Monday, their actions backed up their words.
With a 2-1 victory in Game 3, the Kings cut their series deficit in half and avoided facing the specter of an elimination game here Wednesday. San Jose leads the best-of-seven first-round series, two games to one.
Scoring the winner at 3:47 of overtime for the Kings was Tanner Pearson, who beat Sharks goalie Martin Jones between the pads with a low shot from the left circle. Helping set the stage for the scoring play was a big hit administered by the Kings’ Dustin Brown on the Sharks’ Joonas Donskoi.
So what went through Pearson’s head?
“Game over,” he said. “We won Game 3. . . .We trust each other in here that we’re going to bounce back.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter spread the credit to include All-Star goaltender Jonathan Quick. “We had two big plays there. [Quick] had a big save on Donskoi just before that,” Sutter said. “Played a heck of a game.”
After Game 4 at SAP Center, the series goes back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Friday.
Quick was dialed in after giving up an early goal, by Joe Thornton on the Sharks’ first shot of the game, just 30 seconds in.
For the Kings, Anze Kopitar responded with his first goal of the series, scoring at 8:10 of the first period by converting a slick pass from left wing Milan Lucic on the power play.
Quick got better and better as the game went along. Among his many stellar moments: denying Sharks forward Chris Tierney in the second period. He was called upon for another extended stretch of excellence when San Jose went on the power play at 9:40 of the third period after Lucic went off for slashing Sharks defenseman Justin Braun.
On the penalty kill, Quick came up big again with a save on Logan Couture and defenseman Drew Doughty blocked a Joe Pavelski shot. Not only were the Kings’ penalty killers under siege but one of them, Kopitar, was without his stick after it broke.
“I thought our PK was really good,” Brown said. “On our last kill, I broke my stick, got the change, and Kopi breaks his stick right after. On the other side of it, that top power-play unit for them, those five guys, has probably been the same power play for four or five years.
After San Jose’s 2-1 win in Game 2, the talk about the series revolved around the Sharks’ edge in five-on-five play. The Kings had just one goal in that situation in the first two games of the series.
“They’ve scored on a handful of theirs and we’ve scored on one of ours,” Sutter said after Monday’s morning skate. “It’s the difference in the series. There’s really not much gap at all.
“As I said, I’m not saying it because I’m coaching the team that’s 0-2 or the team that’s 2-0. That can be quite easily the other way. That’s how close it is. You get in. The teams are all even. There’s no difference in the teams. That’s how hard it is.”