EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In 1939, the NHL tried best-of-7 playoff series for the first time. Then-league president Frank Calder must have considered it a noble idea, and history has proved him correct.
It didn't take long, either. In the first seven-game series, in what was essentially the 1939 semifinals, the New York Rangers lost the first three games, won the next three games, then lost to Boston in Game 7. Boston, coached by Art Ross -- another legendary NHL name -- won that game at home in three overtimes.
The Kings don't want to be those Rangers. They'd rather be the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders or 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, the only teams (out of 175) to win a series after trailing 3-0.
It's deliciously close. After they lost the first three games of this first-round series to San Jose, two in rather hideous fashion, the Kings have reached the doorstep of a shocking, historic comeback. They'll get a chance to complete the task today, when they play the Sharks in Game 7 at SAP Center.
"All of the history and the stats, we don't care," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We just want to win so bad, and we're going to do whatever it takes."
The Kings allowed 17 goals in Games 1-3, then allowed only four in Games 4-6. Their three victories over San Jose have come by a combined margin of 13-4. The series has completely flipped.
Game 7 is traditionally a different animal, though. It's mental as much as physical. Are the Sharks panicking? Do they have confidence in either of their goalies? Can the Kings, after three emotional victories, harness enough energy to win again, in one of the NHL's most difficult arenas?
The Kings will look to maintain the tight-defense, good-goaltending model that worked in the past three games, while the Sharks will try to revert to the speedy style that served them well early in the series.
Of the 175 previous teams that fell into a 3-0 hole, only eight even made it to Game 7. Of those eight, six played Game 7 on the road (with a 2-4 record). The Kings have a pretty good guide.
Kings center Mike Richards played for the 2010 Flyers (Jeff Carter was also on the roster, but injured), who trailed 3-0 in the first period of that Game 7, then rallied to beat the Bruins 4-3 in the second round.
"It's not the most conventional way to go through a series, but you've got to win in different ways," Richards said. "We've put ourselves in position to move on to the next round."
The Kings also have winger Justin Williams, who has five goals and four assists in four career Game 7s, and has been a San Jose irritant in this series, with four goals and one assist.
Then again, the Sharks have reason to limit panic. Their 2011 counterparts led Detroit 3-0 in the first round, lost Games 4-6, then beat the Red Wings, 3-2, in Game 7 in San Jose. The core of this Sharks team, such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi, also avoided the reverse sweep in 2011.
"We were a confident bunch," Thornton told reporters. "We felt like our game was missing in a couple games and then we slowly got it back. I think this year, it's kind of the same way."
Veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell's status for Game 7 remains unknown. Mitchell left midway through the second period of Game 6 when he appeared to suffer a lower-body injury. As a precaution, the Kings sent forward Colin Fraser to the AHL and are expected to call up Jeff Schultz, a 28-year-old defenseman with 29 games of NHL playoff experience. ... Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who missed Game 6 because of an upper-body injury, did not practice Tuesday and his Game 7 status is unknown.
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