Hockey / Sports

Kings rule in third period for victory

LOS ANGELES -- The fourth time was the charm for the Kings. So was the third.

With their season on the line in Game 4 on Thursday night, the Kings lost the lead twice before the middle of the second period, but then a veteran and a kid came through to extend things for at least two more days.

Justin Williams and Tyler Toffoli scored crucial goals less than three minutes apart late in the second period, and the Kings held things together long enough to beat the San Jose Sharks, 6-3, at Staples Center.

Williams and Marian Gaborik each scored two goals and Toffoli scored on his 22nd birthday.

The Kings still trail, 3-1, in the best-of-seven first-round series, with Game 5 on Saturday night in San Jose, but at the very least, they salvaged their pride. At the most, they took the first step toward something historic, given that only three of 175 NHL teams have ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit.

The Kings didn't exactly play their tight-checking, forechecking-and-goaltending game to perfection, but they showed impressive fortitude, particularly after the Sharks rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

Coach Darryl Sutter made wholesale line-combination changes before the game, but really, they didn't impact much. The game was won by individual grit, particularly by a couple critical veterans.

Gaborik set the tone early by driving to the net and knocking in a loose puck. That goal, 4:08 into the first period, proved to be a harbinger. Four of the Kings' five goals were scored either with a body directly in front of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, or with a Kings forward close enough to make Niemi think.

Still, things weren't easy for the Kings, who got excessively loose on defense at times. San Jose's James Sheppard tied it with 7.3 seconds left in the first period. And after Williams scored 3:52 into the second period to put the Kings up, 2-1, San Jose's Matt Nieto tied it again five minutes later.

The game seemed to turn on, of all things, a poor Kings penalty kill midway through the second period. The Kings chased the puck around for two minutes but managed to keep it out of their net.

Seemingly with equal measures of relief and enthusiasm, the Kings turned things around. Williams' second goal came with 3:53 left in the second period, and the back-breaker came with 58.8 seconds left. Toffoli, well-positioned near the net, knocked in a rebound of Alec Martinez's shot for a 4-2 lead.

Gaborik's second goal, 34 seconds into the third period, gave the Kings a 5-2 lead and chased Niemi from the game. The Kings' goals came over a span of 4:27, and on three consecutive shots on goal.

Perhaps most encouraging for the Kings was the play of goalie Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves. Quick wasn't perfect, but had his best game of the series, and was particularly strong on the penalty kill.

Joe Pavelski scored with 8:24 to pull San Jose to 5-3, but Dustin Brown added a late empty-net goal.

AWARD FINALIST

Anze Kopitar was selected as one of three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given annually to the forward who "demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game."

Kopitar, Boston's Patrice Bergeron (the 2012 winner) and Chicago's Jonathan Toews (the 2013 winner) are the Selke finalists. The winner, based on a media vote, will be announced June 24 in Las Vegas.

"It's really nice to be nominated, obviously, but right now is not the time to think about that," Kopitar said Wednesday morning. "I'll think about that when it's all said and done."

Kopitar, 26, had plus-34 rating this season, tied for fourth-best in the NHL. He led the Kings with 29 goals and 41 assists and played all 82 games, including extensive power-play and penalty-kill time.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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KINGS


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