Photos: Scot Tucker/SFBay
HP PAVILION — Store those beard-trimmers back in the drawer and refresh that teal rally manicure. The Sharks are still in it.
In a do-or-die fight against the Kings Sunday evening, desperate play and a heart-attack-inducing third period helped the Sharks emerge victorious with a 2-1 Game 6 win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Dan Boyle, who tallied an assist in the crucial win, summarized what helped the Sharks maintain their momentum in that final period:
“Simple hockey, just getting it out, getting it in, nobody getting caught. … At this time of year, it’s not the cute plays that get it done. It’s the so-called ‘ugly hockey.'”
The win sends the series back to Los Angeles Tuesday night, where the Sharks have failed to notch a victory in five regular season and playoff games this season.
In every game of this series, the home team has scored first then gone on to win. Head coach Todd McLellan is very aware of this trend, and how much his team needs to break it:
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan
Video: CSN Bay Area
“One team wins, back and forth. It’s time for us to get there and try to change the story. Obviously we’re going to have to play a much better game than we did last time we were in that building. But they earned the right for home ice, and it’s our job to take it away from them.”
San Jose went on the power play early and often in the first period, and found themselves on a 5-on-3 at 4:58.
Seconds were winding down on the two-man advantage as Joe Pavelski slid the puck to Joe Thornton who knocked the puck past Jonathan Quick, putting Team Teal on the board 1-0 at 6:09. Dan Boyle also picked up an assist on Thornton’s second goal of the playoffs.
McLellan said the power play led the way in Game 6:
“The power play was the difference tonight. And we got the five-on-three goal, which … it would have been disappointing if we wouldn’t have, because it would have been a big momentum swing.”
When the Kings did get the puck in Sharks’ territory, they were unable to capitalize.
Antti Niemi was on his A-game between the pipes, blocking even the sneakiest of shots and keeping the Kings’ nine first period shots on goal from reaching the back of the net.
The Sharks got right back to work to open up the second. After Niemi cleared the puck down the center of the ice, defenseman Scott Hannan passed the puck to TJ Galiardi for a wrist shot that flew high past Quick and put the home team on top 2-0 at 4:10.
Captain Joe Thornton complimented Galiardi on his first goal of the playoffs in such an important game:
Sharks center Joe Thornton
Video: CSN Bay Area
“He’s been playing really well, he’s been skating really well. … Just a matter of time before he scores, and what bigger goal than tonight.”
The Kings eventually got the jump on Niemi, putting their lone point on the board with a shot by LA captain Dustin Brown in the blue paint to bring the score to 2-1 at 13:53 in the second.
Multiple Kings skated into the crease as the period wound down, but Niemi was able to keep the puck from passing him. McLellan said of Niemi’s performance:
“I thought Nemo was very solid tonight. He was a calming influence for us. Any time we made mistakes, he was there, he settled things down. … When you’re tired, when you’re running around, a goaltender can set the pace of the game. And he was very good at managing the game from the crease.”
The teams were tied at 17 shots each headed into an intense third period. The noise of the sold-out crowd reached unfathomable levels as Niemi and the Sharks defense kept the opposition from scoring the rest of the way.
The Sharks now travel back to LA to face the Kings at Staples Center Tuesday night at 6 p.m., where San Jose has yet to win this season.
When asked about the pressure of winning the final game of the series on the road, Logan Couture smiled and said:
“This is what you play for, right? It’s exciting. We’ve got to win in their building. But Game 7. … It’s going to be fun.”
The Sharks are 5-0 at home in the postseason. … All the Sharks home wins have ended with the score of 2-1. … Niemi became the first Sharks goaltender since Evgeni Nabokov to register a point in a postseason game (6-3 win on May 1, 2002 @ COL). He also became the third Sharks goaltender (Nabokov, Mike Vernon) to accomplish this feat. … Adam Burish played in his first game of the series, registering a team-high four shots and going 4-for-4 in the faceoff circle.