SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Beware of caged Kings.
Facing playoff elimination for the second time in 48 hours, in one of the most impenetrable fortresses in the NHL -- the place dubbed a "cage" by their coach -- the Kings beat down the San Jose Sharks.
A brilliant start on both ends, good special teams and a handful of big saves added up to an impressive 3-0 Kings victory Saturday night at SAP Center in Game 5 of the first-round series, and continued life.
The Sharks still lead, 3-2, in the best-of-7 series, with Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center, but the Kings are rolling.
The Sharks? They've been outscored, 9-3, in the last six periods, and outplayed so badly that their starting goalie has been on the bench for most of three of the last four periods.
"We knew it was going to be really tough to get a win here, and we overcame that," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "Now we're going back home, to our own fans, and we have to take another one."
Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar scored first-period goals. Jeff Carter's goal, 22 seconds into the second period, chased goalie Antti Niemi as the usually rabid San Jose fans loudly booed their team.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 30 saves to blank the high-scoring San Jose offense, which was shut out only four times in 82 games this season.
"We had a good start," Quick said. "We had a few good shifts and we just tried to keep building on it. They came with a lot too. They had a good push-back. It's not easy to win. They're a great team."
All logic and predictability has essentially vanished from this series, which was expected to be low-scoring and tight-checking and dominated by the home team. The teams have combined for 37 goals in five games, and the road team has won two of the last three.
Or, perhaps, it just took the Kings a while to discover their playoff legs. Since Games 1 and 2, when they were outscored a combined 13-5, the Kings have outscored the Sharks, 12-7.
One thing is clear: this series is trending in the Kings' direction, and not just because of the scores.
For most of the first two games, the Kings looked like they had their skates on the wrong feet. They cleaned up their neutral-zone messiness in Game 3, even though they lost in overtime, and made major improvements in Game 4, even though they still gave up too many scoring chances for their liking.
Nothing, though, portended what happened in Game 5. A day earlier, the Kings said they hoped to "weather the storm" in SAP Center, where the Sharks lost only seven times in the regular season.
The Kings didn't weather the storm; they were the storm. In the first 10 minutes, they outshot the Sharks, 12-3, and led on Toffoli's goal -- after a brilliant cross-ice pass from fellow rookie Tanner Pearson -- 8:09 in. Kopitar's rebound goal made it 2-0 less than five minutes later.
Still, there had to be some unspoken anxiety on the Kings' bench. In Game 2, the Kings led, 2-0, after the first period, and the Sharks responded with seven consecutive goals. Lesson learned, it seems.
On the first shift of the second period, on the power play, the Kings took a 3-0 lead. Carter held the puck below the Sharks' goal line and attempted a centering pass. No Kings were in front of the net, but the puck deflected off the skate of Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart and over the Niemi's shoulder.
That ended Niemi's night. He was pulled in favor of Alex Stalock for the second consecutive game, after 19 Kings shots, in what certainly seemed to be a team-wide indictment by Coach Todd McLellan.
Meanwhile, the goalie who looked shaky early in the series seems to be getting progressively better.
Quick could have napped for half of the game -- the Sharks had only 11 shots on goal in the middle of the second period -- came up big when needed, but the Kings also played better defense in front of him.
"In the first couple games, they had odd-man rushes coming at us left and right," Kopitar said. "We just wanted to sharpen up, and I think we did a pretty good job."
The Sharks might have a long-term issue. They lost defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time in the first four games, to injury in the first period after a check from Kings center Jarret Stoll that drew a roughing penalty. McLellan said Stoll hit Vlasic in the head.
San Jose showed some life late in the second period, but the Sharks also couldn't get out of their own way. They started the third period with 1:38 of power-play time, and a chance for a doubt-creating goal, but winger Brent Burns took a tripping penalty 16 seconds into the period.
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