Sports

NHL Playoffs

Kings put on a show against Sharks in Game 5

By WES GILBERTSON, Calgary Sun

Kings defenceman Matt Greene hits Sharks forward James Sheppard during Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, May 23, 2013. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

Kings defenceman Matt Greene hits Sharks forward James Sheppard during Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, May 23, 2013. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

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LOS ANGELES - 

They tried to run them out of their rink.

Now, the Los Angeles Kings have an opportunity to run the San Jose Sharks out of the series and out of Stanley Cup contention, too.

The Kings tossed enough hits they could make a case for a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and centre Anze Kopitar ensured his first goal of the series was a biggie as the reigning NHL champions pushed the Sharks to the brink of elimination with Thursday's hard-fought 3-0 victory at the Staples Center.

“I think it's fair to say this is probably our best effort in the playoffs, most consistent effort in the playoffs,” Kopitar said.

Slava Voynov and Jeff Carter also scored for the Kings, who stretched their home winning streak to 13 consecutive triumphs by keying on the physical, in-your-face formula that was so successful last spring.

The Sharks, who have rattled off six straight wins at HP Pavilion, will need to keep that streak alive to send this Western Conference semifinal to a winner-take-all seventh game.

For the Sharks, who now trail 3-2 in the series, the best news is there's a two-day break before Sunday's Game 6 in San Jose.

They'll need it.

If you scored access to the Kings' room prior to Thursday's pre-game warmup, the message on the white-board probably said something like, 'HIT 'EM!!!'

The hosts were credited with two dozen body-checks in the opening frame alone, getting back to the formula that made them so successful last spring. As one L.A.-based writer quipped on Twitter, the Kings had “more hits in the first period than Dodgers have had this season.”

Just two minutes after the opening faceoff, L.A.'s Colin Fraser dropped Sharks blueliner Brad Stuart as he fetched the puck deep in his own zone.

Kings winger Dustin Penner lowered the boom on Logan Couture in the neutral zone, with the Sharks centre losing his helmet as he spilled to the ice.

At almost the exact same spot on the ice, Kings defenceman Matt Greene — making his presence known in his second game back from injury — stopped James Sheppard and T.J. Galiardi in their tracks on separate breakout attempts.

“If I’m not doing that, then I’m probably not worth a damn for anybody out there,” Greene said.

“That's a part of our game, but I thought we did it tonight in the right way in the sense that we didn't run out of position to make a hit, and that's what we need more of,” added captain Dustin Brown, who was credited with a game-high seven collisions. “It's being smart and aggressive out there.”

The Kings finished with a 51-24 edge in hits, but what hurt the most for the Sharks was probably Kopitar's go-ahead goal with less than two minutes remaining in the second period and the game still goalless.

Kyle Clifford's blast from the blueline hit a wall of bodies in front of Sharks netminder Antti Niemi and slid to Kopitar, who was parked at the post and tapped the puck into a wide-open net.

The Kings struck again 53 seconds into the third, with Voynov snaking a wrist-shot through traffic from the point as Galiardi's minor penalty for goaltender interference expired.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick finished with 24 stops for his second goose egg of the series, including a point-blank denial of Sharks winger Joe Pavelski in the final minute.

“Myself included, we were bad tonight. That’s why we lost," Couture said. "We’re not going to win if our best players are not our best players. We need to step up. Quick played well. When you get chances you have to score, it’s the playoffs. We had enough chances to win tonight. Guys need to start bearing down and scoring some goals.”

Niemi stopped 26 shots before Carter's empty-netter.

“They played aggressive, but we also didn't play our game,” assessed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “The last two months, when we play a quick, efficient game, we're moving pucks, it's on the tape and everybody is skating to holes. We seemed to be playing more of a north-south game.

“I gave the Kings some credit for that. Also, we helped their cause a lot by not being very clean.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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