Final Score: Los Angeles 5, San Jose 1
San Jose, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Kings joined a rare club on Wednesday, becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series hole with a 5-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series.
After dropping the first two games in San Jose by a combined scored of 13-5, the Kings failed in overtime in Game 3 at home to find themselves on the brink of elimination.
However, the team stayed alive with a win in Game 4, then saw goaltender Jonathan Quick post a shutout in Game 5 and give up just one goal in Game 6 to force the deciding game.
The former Conn Smythe winner again shined when his team needed him, posting 39 saves on Wednesday and helping the team join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers as the only clubs to pull off the monumental comeback.
"It was a result of us staying together as a group of guys. When you've gone to the top of the mountain with the same group of guys it's a little bit easier when you're at the bottom to come up," captain Dustin Brown said. "That's what a lot of this team is about, our guys who have stuck together and played together for years and there's a belief system."
Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Tyler Toffoli all scored for the Kings, who advanced to take on the Anaheim Ducks in the West semifinals with Game 1 set for Saturday night. Brown and Tanner Pearson added empty-net goals.
Matt Irwin scored the only goal of the game for the Sharks, who lost a Game 7 for a second year in a row to the Kings as they dropped a road game in the clincher in a semifinal matchup last spring.
Antti Niemi, who was back in net after getting pulled in Games 4 and 5, and being benched for Game 6, allowed three goals on 28 shots in the final game this postseason for San Jose.
After a spirited first period, the Sharks grabbed the initial lead as Irwin blew a wrister past Quick from the high slot just 28 seconds into the second period.
The Kings, though, tied the game on the power play 4 1/2 minutes later as pressure around the net saw the team fire shots from both sides, with Doughty burying his chance from the left circle just past Niemi's left arm.
Quick kept the game tied with 10 1/2 minutes left in the second when he robbed Patrick Marleau of a sure goal with a glove save on a low shot from the right side, just grabbing the puck in front of the goal line.
"I thought I might have had a shot, but I didn't see it come down until the last second until I kicked it out to my stick," Marleau said. "He made a really good save on that."
Shortly after Quick again kept the puck out of the net with a stop of a one- timer by Joe Pavelski during a San Jose power play, the Kings took a 2-1 lead.
Kyle Clifford had the puck in the neutral zone and fired it over to the right for Justin Williams, who took it in down the right wing. From the boards near the corner, Williams sent the puck back to the slot where Kopitar shifted to the backhand and lifted it in for his fourth of the series with 1:21 to play in the second.
Los Angeles gave itself some breathing room at 4:40 of the third when Pearson caught up to the puck down the left wing in the San Jose end, slamming on the brakes at the low left circle and sending it back to Toffoli, who quickly snapped it in for his third of the playoffs.
Quick again stymied Pavelski, stopping a low shot from a few feet in front of the net with five minutes left to preserve the two-goal lead.
San Jose head coach Todd McLellan opted to pull Niemi from the net with just under three minutes to play, but the gamble did not pay off, as Brown scored with 2:07 to play, and Pearson got one with under a minute to play to seal the victory.
Los Angeles forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were both members of the 2010 Flyers team that rallied from a 3-0 hole against the Boston Bruins in the semifinals ... The Kings are 5-4 all-time in Game 7s, while San Jose fell to 5-4 ... This was the third playoff series between the two clubs, with Los Angeles winning two ... Kopitar had 10 points (4g, 6a) in the series, and is tied with three other players for the postseason lead.