Programming note: Coverage of Game 7 between the Kings and Sharks begins Wednesday at 6:30 on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live. (Channel locations)
LOS ANGELES – The Kings have come all the way back, and now their series with the Sharks will be decided in a Game 7.
Los Angeles scored three times in the third period, two by Anze Kopitar, to earn a 4-1 win over San Jose on Monday night at Staples Center. The seventh and deciding game will be at SAP Center on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
The Sharks will try to avoid becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to lose a series when leading three games to none. The Kings are just the ninth NHL team to ever force a Game 7 when dropping the first three games of a best-of-seven.
Justin Williams’ goal, his second of the night, broke a 1-1 tie at 11:56 of the third period. Robyn Regehr directed the puck towards the net, and Williams poked it through Alex Stalock for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Kopitar converted on a three-on-two rush, knocking in the rebound of a puck that Williams tipped on net at 13:27. The Kings put the game away just over a minute later on another Kopitar marker, this one on the power play, at 14:42.
There were several altercations late in the game, including Logan Couture and Mike Richards fighting at 14:47. Shortly after, Raffi Torres wrestled with Williams, and each was given a minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
Jonathan Quick and Sharks captain Joe Thornton grabbed one another with 1:46 to go in regulation, resulting in a large scrum in the corner and lengthy delay as the referees sorted things out.
The Kings drew first blood at 5:39 of the first. Justin Braun failed to tie up Drew Doughty in the corner, and the defenseman sent a hard pass to the tape of Williams in front of the net for an easy slam. Williams was left alone after Joe Pavelski and Marty Havlat seemed to get confused in the neutral zone, and Pavelski couldn’t get back in time to prevent Williams’ third goal of the series.
The Sharks got the only goal of the second period, though, knotting the score at 1-1 after 40 minutes. Braun’s saucer from the point was redirected by James Sheppard and bounced in off of Robyn Regehr’s skate at 12:26.
Earlier in the second, the Kings penalty kill denied San Jose on a lengthy five-on-three. Regehr (interference) and Jarret Stoll (high-sticking) took minor penalty just 24 seconds apart, but the Sharks’ power play didn’t do much other than pass the puck around the perimeter. Pavelski had the best look, but Doughty dove in front of the disc before it reached the crease.
The Sharks power play looked bad a few minutes later when Doughty went off for high-sticking Marleau midway through regulation, but Sheppard’s goal ended a scoreless drought of 100 minutes and 50 seconds, dating back to the third period of Game 4.
Alex Stalock was making his first career playoff start, and was particularly sharp in the first period after surrendering Williams’ goal. He knocked away Mike Richards’ shot on a two-on-one, and with Thornton off for kneeing Dustin Brown, turned aside good looks from Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Alec Martinez.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and are 4-for-26 in the series.
Los Angeles was 1-for-5 on the power play, and is now 5-for-22 in the series.
Quick finished with 25 saves, and has now allowed just one goal in the last two games.
Stalock, who came on in relief of Antti Niemi in games four and five, allowed four goals on 30 shots.
Havlat was inserted for Mike Brown, who had played each of the first five games.
On defense, Matt Irwin saw his first action of the playoffs in place of the injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body).
The winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 will face the Anaheim Ducks in the second round, with the first two games at Honda Center.