LOS ANGELES – For the first half of Game 3, the speed and swiftness that was so palpable in the Sharks’ two wins over Los Angeles to start their playoff series was missing in action.
The Sharks still hadn’t registered a single shot on goal in the second period when Marian Gaborik, who had been missing himself in the first two games, gave the Kings their first lead of the night, 2-1 at 7:59 of the middle frame. The Kings were primed to take the game over at that point, as the Sharks couldn’t get anything going offensively in a building in which they had just one win in their last 11 games.
It didn’t happen, though. The Sharks found their legs, dominated the third period, and although the Kings swarmed them early in overtime, found a way to take a commanding 3-0 series lead on Patrick Marleau’s deflected overtime marker.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Marleau's OT marker gives Sharks 3-0 series lead]
Head coach Todd McLellan pointed to the shift after the Gaborik goal and helping turn it around, when Joe Thornton and Brent Burns crashed the Los Angeles net and provided a much-needed scoring chance.
“I thought we had a real good bump-up shift after the goal, with Jumbo’s line going out and creating a bit of offensive attack again,” McLellan said.
“We had two choices: get on our heels, or get going again. We picked the right one, and carried it over into the third period.”
The Sharks outshot Los Angeles 23-8 in the third, nearly winning in regulation on a late power play.
Logan Couture said the Sharks saw the Kings team they figured they would see to when this series began, rather than the club that allowed 13 goals in the first two games.
“They were just better overall,” Couture said. “They were very loose in the first two games, giving up chances that they don’t usually give up. That’s the kind of game we expected from the start. We got that tonight, and we were able to beat them.”
Goals from rookies Matt Nieto and Tomas Hertl helped to force overtime. Nieto’s came on a deflected puck in the second period after Quick was interfered with by his own man, while Hertl camped out in front of the net for a third period marker, answering Jeff Carter’s power play goal.
“They both had a huge, positive impact on the game,” McLellan said.
Antti Niemi, who was under a microscope to start the series, played his best hockey at the start of overtime. He batted away a shot from Justin Williams that looked destined for the top corner less than three minutes into the extra frame, and held his ground while the Kings swarmed the crease, trying desperately to get back into the series.
Incredibly, Niemi is now 9-1 in playoff games that advance to overtime in his Sharks career.
“Huge saves early in the overtime,” Thornton said. “There’s a big crowd around Nemo, and he just battled for us. I don’t know how he saved a couple, but thank goodness.”
Couture said: “In overtime we weren’t making plays, we were kind of hanging on there. The bench and the coaches were trying to keep us calm and get us to make plays, and they really took it to us for the first five minutes of that overtime. Then we got a lucky bounce, and that’s the way things go sometimes.”
The Sharks will try for their second straight first round sweep on Thursday.
“It feels good, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Marleau said.