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 – At the time, Todd McLellan appeared content with the on-ice ruling, after referee Chris Lee explained to him that Robyn Regehr’s shot was never frozen by goaltender Alex Stalock before it was pushed in by Justin Williams.
That gave the Kings a 2-1 third period lead, and was the turning point in the their 4-1 win in Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center, tying the series at three games apiece.
After the game, though, the Sharks’ coach was fuming.
“We got cheated. Simple as that,” McLellan said.
“I was told you could see the puck laying behind [Stalock’s] feet the whole time, and that’s why the whistle didn’t go. But it was pretty clear if you look at it afterward.”
So, you thought the puck was covered?
“Thought? No. Know, now.”
Los Angeles piled on after the controversial ruling, taking advantage of a seemingly deflated Sharks club that will now try and avoid becoming just the fourth NHL team to ever lose a best-of-seven series when ahead three games to none. Anze Kopitar put the game away with two more scores in the third, one on a three-on-two rush and another on a power play.
Game 7 is at SAP Center on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Stalock was the main focus leading up to the game, when it was announced on Monday morning he would be making his first career playoff start in place of a wobbly Antti Niemi. He allowed Williams to score in the first period on a dandy pass from the corner by Drew Doughty after Justin Braun didn’t pressure the defenseman enough, but recovered to make some key stops later in the opening frame.
“Al played great,” Joe Thornton said. “Probably the first period he had a couple odd-man rushes, and he stood tall. I thought he played excellent tonight.”
It sounds likely he’ll be back between the pipes for Game 7.
“He has a shot to play Game 7, and I thought Alex played very well,” McLellan said.
For the second straight game, the Sharks had trouble generating offense against a tight Kings defense. A marker by James Sheppard on a double-deflection that went in off of Regehr’s skate was all they would get past Jonathan Quick, who had not allowed a goal in more than 100 minutes to that point and didn’t let another one get past him after it.
Although the Sharks were not the better team in the first period, they seemed to gain confidence after some impressive saves from Stalock. The game was tied at 1-1 after two periods, and was anyone’s for the taking before Williams’ third period marker.
Joe Thornton said: “Both teams played solid to that point. Up to that, it was anybody’s ball game.”
“I thought for the majority of that third period, the first 10 minutes we were playing the way we wanted to. Into the second, too,” Logan Couture said. “Then, they get that goal that I don’t think should have counted. We kind of became unraveled, which we shouldn’t have.”
McLellan didn’t express any astonishment at the Kings storming their way back into the series.
“I think if we go back, we can talk about the expectation of the series to being very tight checking,” he said. “I think the biggest change is they got rid of their sloppy play and got back to playing their type of game and it’s a tough type of game to beat for us.
“We’ll have to do a better job in Game 7.”
If they don’t, it could be a new low point in two-plus decade history of the franchise, which has yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
Couture said: “It’s one game. We go home, the series on the line. … A goal that I didn’t like tonight, but that’s the way it goes. It’s a seven-game series for a reason.”