SAN JOSE – The Sharks have already made some team history in this year’s playoffs, sweeping a series for the first time since entering the league.
They’ll have to make more if they want to advance to the Western Conference finals. Nine times the Sharks have trailed two games to none in a playoff series, and nine times their season has ended in that round.
Winning Game 3 on Saturday (6 p.m., NBCSN), is essentially a necessary step if they want to have a chance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, who took the first two games at Staples Center earlier this week.
“Home has been good to us all year,” Dan Boyle said. “It doesn’t guarantee a win, of course, but we obviously need to win tonight.”
The Sharks won games three and four against Vancouver at home, and were 17-2-5 here in the regular season. Their 39 points at home tied them for the league lead with the Kings and Blackhawks.
They’ll have to quickly put the heartbreaking loss in Game 2 behind them. San Jose was less than two minutes from tying the series at a game apiece, but a pair of late power play goals gave the Kings the dramatic win on Thursday night at Staples Center.
It was the kind of loss that could bury a team emotionally. Just how the Sharks compete early in Game 3 will be telling as to whether they can move on, or if a lingering disappointment from Game 2 turns out to be a lethal blow.
“We’re going to find out the answer to that,” Todd McLellan said. “The proof is in the pudding. We’ve got to take that test here in the first period. What I know for sure is the building will be energized. There will be a lot of excited, energized fans, and we have to feed off of that to start with. Then we just go from there, and work our way into the game.”
Logan Couture said: “The crowd is going to be loud, we know that. We’ve got to make it uncomfortable for those guys in our building, like they did to us.”
The Sharks would like to duplicate their effort from Game 2, at least at even strength. After getting shut out in Game 1, San Jose found a way to get three pucks past Jonathan Quick. It was just the second time in eight playoffs starts this year that Quick surrendered more than two goals.
But, special teams will have to improve. The Kings scored three power play goals in Game 2, and are 3-for-7 in the series. The Sharks are still looking for their first power play goal (0-for-7).
“Some of the areas we wanted to improve on after Game 1 and heading into Game 2, we did,” McLellan said. “There are still some things that LA does extremely well, as good as anybody or maybe better, in the league. We still have to attack those areas, and make sure that we’re trying to accomplish some of the things we need to do.”
Patrick Marleau, who has scored in five of six playoff games, said: “Power play needs to produce, and there are a few things on the PK we can sharpen up on.”
Staying out of the penalty box would help, too. After taking just one minor in Game 1, the Sharks were shorthanded six times in Game 2, which ended up being the difference. It was the first time since Feb. 23 in a regular season game at Dallas they were down a man that many times.
“The discipline part of it, and the ability to stay out of the box, not simply because they have a very good power play, just how much it takes out of everybody else on the team, is very important,” McLellan said.
That’s easier said than done against the Kings.
“They play physical in the right way, which is frustrating at times,” Tommy Wingels said. “When a team is always in your face and taking your ice away, you become frustrated. I think that’s part of their game plan. We’ve got to stay disciplined. We got a few too many penalties last game, and we’re going to look to cut down on that and win the special teams battle.”
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The Sharks and Kings will both make lineup changes for Game 2. Marty Havlat will play for the first time since he was hurt in Game 1 against Vancouver, while the Kings will likely have a new look to their third and fourth lines.
Havlat will likely replace either Tim Kennedy or Bracken Kearns.
Based on the morning skate, the Kings will play Trevor Lewis between Dustin Penner and Tyler Toffoli, and Colin Fraser will be the fourth line center with Tanner Pearson and Brad Richardson. Jordan Nolan would come out in that situation.
Pearson, 20, would be making his NHL debut. He was Los Angeles’ first round pick (30th overall) in 2012.