McLellan: 'The power play was the difference tonight'
Joe Thornton and TJ Galiardi got shots past Jonathan Quick Sunday to force a decisive Game 7 Tuesday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – The Sharks are headed back to Los Angeles.
Joe Thornton and TJ Galiardi scored for San Jose and Antti Niemi made 25 saves to give the Sharks a 2-1 win at HP Pavilion on Sunday night. Game 7 is on Tuesday night at Staples Center (6 p.m., NBCSN).
The home team has won all six games in the series. The Sharks are 5-2 all-time in franchise history in Game 7.
Scoring first and getting a power play goal were at the top of the list for the Sharks in terms of importance heading into Game 6. They accomplished both early.
Mike Richards (hooking) and Anze Kopitar (delay of game) were whistled for minors just 14 seconds apart, giving the Sharks a lengthy two-man advantage. Joe Pavelski patiently waited for the right moment to thread a pass through the slot to Thornton, leading to an easy goal for the captain at 6:09. The marker was Thornton’s second of the playoffs.
San Jose got some help from its goalie – and the posts – in maintaining that lead through the first 20 minutes, as Drew Doughty, Dwight King and Kopitar all rang one off of the iron. Niemi’s best saves came on Trevor Lewis on a Kings power play, when he stopped the forward in front of the net and then again on a redirection with Dan Boyle off on a high-sticking minor.
The Sharks increased their lead in the second, when Galiardi’s wrist shot from the whizzed past the short side of Jonathan Quick at 4:10. Robyn Regehr was defending Galiardi on the play, while Scott Hannan and Niemi got the assists.
San Jose had a prime chance to make it 3-0 when Justin Williams high-sticked Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 7:28, putting the Sharks on a four-minute power play. They managed just two shots, though, including Tommy Wingels’ attempt just before Williams exited the box that handcuffed Quick.
Los Angeles cut into the lead at 13:53. Matt Greene’s shot bounced off of Wingels’ shin pad to the corner, where Dustin Brown convertedfrom a bad angle by bouncing it off of Niemi, who didn’t cover the near post in time.
Rather than sit on their lead, like they did in Game 4, the Sharks kept up the pressure in the third period and outshot Los Angeles 9-8 in the final frame. Patrick Marleau had a partial breakaway with five minutes left, but couldn’t quite slide in a backhand with Jake Muzzin hustling back.
The Kings pulled Quick with a minute and a half left in the third, but Los Angeles could not get set up in the offensive zone before time expired.
Adam Burish made his debut in the series. The fourth liner suffered a broken right hand on May 7 in the clinching game over the Vancouver Canucks, and was previously ruled out for the series.
The Sharks improved to 5-14 all time in Game 6. They will be trying to complete a comeback from an 0-2 series hole for the first time in franchise history (0-9). They have won just once when trailing three games to two (1-8).
All three of the Sharks’ wins in the series have come with a 2-1 final.
All four of the Sharks’ power play goals in the series have come at home. San Jose was 1-for-5 in Game 6, and is 4-for-24 overall in the series.
The Kings were 0-for-2 in Game 6, and are 4-for-17 in the series.
For the eighth time in 10 games, Niemi held the opposition to less than two goals. He improved to 7-3 in the postseason.
Quick fell to 7-5. He’s allowed two or less in 10 of 12 postseason starts, and made 23 saves in Game 6.
To make room for Adam Burish, Jason Demers came out of the lineup after he played less than four minutes at forward in Game 5.
Defenseman Justin Braun left the ice less than four minutes into the first period with what looked to be a back injury. Braun had to be helped to locker room, but returned late in the period. The Kings replaced rookie Tyler Toffoli with Jordan Nolan.
Game 7 is at Staples Center at 6 p.m. PST. The Sharks and Kings may or may not know who they would be playing at that point, as Game 6 of the Chicago-Detroit series is on Monday night. The Red Wings lead that series, three games to two. Game 7 would be on Wednesday night.