2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Preview
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 - San Jose 6, Los Angeles 3 – Sharks lead series, 3-1
While the Vancouver Canucks are beginning to once again look like their normal April selves, the San Jose Sharks are finally giving the impression that they’re intent on living up to some degree of Stanley Cup playoff expectations.
After splitting the first two games in San Jose, the Sharks took the trip down to Southern California and were determined to make a statement. In contrast to the bulk of their playoff history, they actually managed to make good on their intentions by winning both games at the Staples Center and taking control of this first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. If Game 3’s miraculous four-goal comeback on Tuesday might have suggested that the Sharks were an erratic team destined for an even more precipitous fall, the number two seed in the Western Conference put such talk to rest on Thursday. The past decade’s biggest playoff underachiever didn’t wilt this time; it thrived on the road by unleashing two separate three-goal clusters on the bewildered and outgunned Kings, whose season clearly turned for the worst in that awful, Heimlich-flavored Game 3 collapse a few days ago.
After neither team could light the lamp in the first period, the Sharks scored three unanswered goals. The first one was scored by Ryane Clowe at the 3:58 mark, followed by a marker by Jason Demers at 5:12. The third straight Sharks goal was scored by Clowe again on the man advantage at 9:28 of the second period. The Sharks, who outscored L.A. by a 5-1 margin in the second period of Game 3, picked up where they left off and created the impression they’d run away and hide.
Not quite - Los Angeles answered with two unanswered goals of its own to make the proceedings interesting for a little while.
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Brad Richardson scored at the 11 minute mark of the second period and Justin Williams added his own goal at the 16:04 mark to give the Sharks just a one goal lead after 40 minutes were in the books. Having been on the wrong side of a massive comeback in Game 3, the Kings hoped to turn the tables and deal the Sharks a devastating psychic blow in Game 4. It almost looked as though the Sharks were down in the series at that point, and a loss would have removed all the joy coach Todd McLellan’s locker room experienced after Game 3. This team needed to plant its feet and make a stand in the third period. Sure enough, it did.
The Sharks came out firing in the third period. They put the game away with three straight goals, including two goals that were separated by a mere 54 seconds.
The first one was scored by Jumbo Joe Thornton just 2:28 minutes into the third period. Then, just under one minute later, Joe Pavelski scored at
3:22 of the period, and the final installment of the second batch of three unanswered goals was scored by Torrey Mitchell at the 11:42 mark.
The Kings could only muster one more goal and that was a redirection by Alexei Ponikarovsky on a Jack Johnson slap shot at the 13:11 minute mark. By that time, though, the hay was out of the barn. San Jose had established unquestioned dominance in the game and, along with it, the series.
So, San Jose heads home after claiming both games in Los Angeles with a chance to clinch the series. The Sharks can escape the first round and advance ever closer to finally accomplishing what they should with the talent on their roster.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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