Sharks hoping Game 3 momentum will carry over

Sharks hoping Game 3 momentum will carry over

April 21, 2011
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(AP) -- As bad as it was to become just the fourth team to squander a four-goal lead and lose a playoff game in NHL history, the Los Angeles Kings know dwelling on the collapse will only make it worse.

So the task on Wednesday for the Kings was putting the 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3 in the past and turning their focus to Game 4 on Thursday night when they hope to rebound and tie the series at two games apiece.

"I put it behind me probably 20 minutes after they scored," forward Jarret Stoll said. "It's a devastating loss, but you can't dwell on it. We had a good day of practice, guys were smiling and we were snapping around out there."

Los Angeles looked in control with a 4-0 lead less than a minute into the second period Tuesday night, before the Sharks rallied with five goals in the second period to tie it at 5 and then won on Devin Setoguchi's goal 3:09 into overtime to cap the stunner at Staples.

REWIND: Sharks win Game 3 thriller in historical fashion

The Sharks joined the Minnesota North Stars (1985 vs. Chicago), the Kings (1982 vs. Edmonton) and Montreal (1971 vs. Boston) as the only teams to come back from a four-goal deficit to win a playoff game. Only Chicago overcame that kind of collapse to win the series.

"It was obviously a pretty exciting game for everybody, pretty emotional," Setoguchi said. "Coming back from four goals is something that doesn't happen very often, especially in the playoffs. We worked hard and it feels pretty good."

As good as the win felt for the Sharks it was that painful for the Kings, who had followed up a 4-0 win in Game 2 with a 4-0 start at home before falling apart in a disastrous second period.

The Kings appeared to lose their edge after the fast start, failing to get the puck deep, committing too many turnovers and staying on the ice for shifts that were too long. It all added up to the five goals in a span of 16:21 and one of the most painful losses in franchise history.

"We embarrassed ourselves," coach Terry Murray said. "We played a terrible game. Now how do you deal with that kind of performance? We have to bounce back. You can't linger on what's happening. You do address it and now we got to move on."

The Kings will need to be able to do that if they want to win a playoff series for just the second time since losing the Stanley Cup final to Montreal in 1993 with Wayne Gretzky as their star.

Just a year ago, the Kings led Vancouver 3-2 at home after two periods in Game 4 of their first-round series - 20 minutes away from taking a 3-1 series lead. But Los Angeles allowed four goals in the third to start a stretch where the Canucks outscored the Kings 15-5 to win the series in six games.

The Kings want to make sure this latest loss doesn't snowball into something bigger.

"You're going to face some hard times in the playoffs," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Last night wasn't the way we thought it was going to go. Each game is a clean slate. There's really no momentum carried over from each game to the other. We can't lose tomorrow night and put ourselves in too big of a hole."

This was the Sharks second overtime win in the series, following a 3-2 decision in Game 1 on Joe Pavelski's winner. They followed up that win with a big dud, losing 4-0 at home in Game 2.

The focus between games this time for San Jose will be on fixing what went wrong in the disastrous first 21 minutes as opposed to feeling too good about what went right after that.

"The first thing we'll remind our players is we were down 4-0," coach Todd McLellan said. "They have to be reminded of that. We have to point out some of the things we didn't do well in the game. We have to make sure we don't let our guard down. We can't have that emotional letdown like we did in the first game."

The biggest question for the Sharks heading into Game 4 is who they will go with in goal. Antti Niemi, who has started 39 of San Jose's past 40 games, was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots Tuesday night.

Antero Niittymaki stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief for his first career playoff win, leading to the inevitable questions about who will start in goal Thursday.

RELATED: McLellan leaning toward Niemi for Game 4

Niemi has 27 wins in those 39 games, playing at a similar level as he did a year ago when helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup. The appearance by Niittymaki was just his third since going down with an injury in mid-January and was his first win since Dec. 21 against Edmonton.

"We're confident in both of them," McLellan said. "When you look at Nemo's record when we pulled him through the season, which wasn't often, he always responded really well. If we go that route, which I think we're leaning toward, we expect him to be very good."

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

PHOENIX — Bruce Maxwell homered twice against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, and his reward was a demotion to the minors.

Awkward timing, for sure. But the news itself wasn’t much of a shock to the A’s catcher, who knew he was the odd man out in a three-man roster battle. The A’s like the left-right platoon behind the plate. Stephen Vogt, who like Maxwell hits left-handed, wasn’t going anywhere. Josh Phegley is back healthy after knee surgery and has the advantage of being a right-handed hitter.

“I mean, I could have come out here and hit 1.000 and I probably still would have been in the same situation,” Maxwell said. “I can’t really do much about it. I try not to worry about it. At the end of the day everybody wants to play in the big leagues, but if the opportunity is not there you can’t stress about it.”

Manager Bob Melvin gave Maxwell the news in the dugout after he exited Oakland’s 11-1 victory, and Melvin certainly couldn’t give Maxwell a justifiable reason for the demotion except that the roster math doesn’t add up.

“Great day to have to do that,” Melvin said sarcastically. “But, he’ll be here at some point. We saw his progression last year, he did a great job for us. There’s nothing he did to suggest he needed to be sent down. It’s just a numbers game for him right now.”

The A’s batted around in a five-run third, knocking Brewers starter Matt Garza from the game after he recorded just seven outs. They tacked on four more in the fourth, with Maxwell going deep to left-center for a two-run homer off Jhan Marinez. In the sixth, he hit a solo shot off Corey Knebel to right-center and also added a run-scoring single to complete his four-RBI day.

Melvin has spoken often of the improving power shown by the 26-year-old Maxwell, who hit .283 with a homer and 14 RBI in 33 games with Oakland last season in his first major league call-up.

“If you look at the power numbers over the years, he’s getting better and better,” Melvin said. “He’s got the chance to be a 20-home run guy in the big leagues.”

NOTEWORTHY: Jharel Cotton held Milwaukee to just a run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He bounced back from a wobbly start against Seattle in which he walked five. On Sunday, his toughest challenge was staying loose as the A’s offense put up two time-consuming rallies. Twice, Cotton had to play catch while his teammates paraded around the bases.

But it sure didn’t affect him, as he struck out seven and walked one in his second-to-last spring training start.

“This one, I was more on the attack, using my fastball more so I can set up my changeup and off-speed pitches,” Cotton said. “I know everybody raves about the changeup, but I need my fastball to be there so I can throw that pitch off the fastball.”

He had an entertaining ongoing battle with six-time All-Star Ryan Braun. He struck out Braun on a cutter in the first, gave up a homer to left in the fourth, then battled back from a 3-0 count to get Braun swinging through a fastball in the sixth.

“I got him twice, he got me once,” Cotton said. “I think I won that battle today.”

HEALTH UPDATE: Daniel Mengden, who has missed all of spring with a broken right foot, is scheduled to get his walking boot removed Monday. Mengden said he’ll stay in Arizona for anywhere from two to four weeks, taking part in extended spring training. The good news for the right-hander: He’s been able to play catch while wearing the boot, so that’s a bit of a head-start for him once he gets full mobility with his foot. There’s no timetable yet for his return.

ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s knocked out 16 hits and recorded double-digit runs for the fifth time this spring. They improved to 16-12. … Alejandro De Aza, fighting for an outfield roster spot, went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .300. … With few regulars making the trip to Maryvale Baseball Park, second baseman Max Schrock came over from minor league camp and once again made an impact, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. … John Axford threw a scoreless inning of relief. Frankie Montas handled the final two innings, allowing one hit with two strikeouts and a walk. The hard-throwing prospect is a candidate for the bullpen as a multi-inning guy.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.