LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles fought back from a goal down with less than two minutes to play to stun the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in a frenzied finish to Game Two of their Western Conference semi-finals on Thursday.
With the Kings on a five-on-three powerplay, captain Dustin Brown tied the score with a backhand shot at 18:17 in the third period to spark thunderous roars from a sellout crowd of 18,527 at Staples Center.
Just 22 seconds later, center Trevor Lewis pounced on a loose puck from the left side of an open net for the go-ahead goal and the Kings held on to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during last season’s playoffs, made 28 saves for Los Angeles, who have now won 12 straight games on home ice since March.
Antti Niemi stopped 27 shots for the Sharks, who will have to rebound when the series shifts to San Jose for Game Three on Saturday.
“We found a way,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter told reporters after his team had won their sixth straight playoff game. “You know what? The power play was on. We’ve been talking about it.
“We’ve been getting good looks and good opportunities and not finishing but we got it (tonight) from different guys. I didn’t like how many penalties we took, our penalty killing did a good job and the power play came through for us.”
San Jose coach Todd McLellan said he had been impressed by the overall performance and character of his players on Thursday night as they came back from an early 0-2 deficit.
“I liked our game,” McLellan smiled. “We’ll meet tomorrow at the rink and I’ll tell our team that.
“The thing I like about our team, maybe in the past this would have bothered our team more, but with the group of guys we have I think we can recover from this. We’ll take our chances just like we did tonight.”
The fifth-seeded Kings made a fast start when center Jeff Carter opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the right at 3:06 in the first period. It was his fourth playoff goal this season, and the 25th of his career in the playoffs.
Though the Sharks were initially much busier on offense, the Kings went 2-0 up when defenseman Drew Doughty scored on a powerplay with a slap shot into the upper-left corner at 4:10 in the second period.
San Jose, who swept the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the previous round, cut the deficit when center Patrick Marleau scored with a tip-in on a powerplay a little more than five minutes later after a brilliant sequence of four-way passing.
The sixth-seeded Sharks then stunned the Staples Center crowd into near silence by tying the game at 2-2 when defenseman Brad Stuart netted with a slap shot at 14:21 in the second period.
As the towel-waving home fans chanted “Go Kings Go”, San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was credited with the goal that put the Sharks 3-2 up at 8:56 of the third, the puck having been deflected through a tangle of bodies.
The Sharks appeared to have the game under control but they paid a heavy price for two late penalties as first Stuart, for tripping, and then Vlasic, for delaying the game by sending the puck over the glass, were both sent to the penalty box.
“Power play got it done in the end when we needed it most,” Lewis said after scoring his first goal in the postseason. “We got some work to do to clean things up but it’s a big win for us.”
Los Angeles are aiming to become the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
Editing by Peter Rutherford/Ian Ransom