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Hot start proves enough as Sharks even series

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Dominant through two periods, the San Jose Sharks held on for dear life in the third to beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 Tuesday and even their Western Conference semifinal series at two wins apiece.

Los Angeles outshot San Jose 14-2 in the final 20 minutes but could not rally from a 2-0 deficit. Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday in Los Angeles.

"They had a couple power plays, and we were on our heels a bit in the third," San Jose's T.J. Galiardi said. "But Nemo (goalie Antti Niemi) shut the door for us."

Mike Richards jammed home a power-play goal at 9:46 of the third period to cut Los Angeles' deficit to one. The Kings enjoyed a long cycle in the San Jose end and finally solved Niemi after Brent Burns boarded Anze Kopitar at 8:14.

Niemi turned back the Kings' final seven shots to close out San Jose's fourth straight playoff win on home ice in as many tries. He wound up with 22 saves while posting his second consecutive 2-1 victory.

"We feel great at home, and we feel confident in our group," Burns said. "Obviously it's a lot better to be 2-2 than 3-1, so it was a big game."

The ice that was tilted in San Jose's favor for one period carried over to the second session. The Sharks scored the only goal in the second -- Logan Couture's power-play tally made it a 2-0 game at 3:55 -- and San Jose tightened up defensively late in the period when the Kings finally made their first push of the game.

"There comes a point where you have to look at things and see what we can do, look at what we did in the second period," Richards said. "We have had success whether it's being aggressive down the wall or being a little more patient."

Kings forward Colin Fraser roughed San Jose's Andrew Desjardins in the L.A. end at 3:14 of the middle period, and it took the hosts just 41 seconds to convert after two failed opening-period 5-on-4s.

Couture scored his fifth goal of the playoff season by redirecting Dan Boyle's point drive past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. It appeared Boyle's blast might have hit the stick of Kopitar as well.

Los Angeles was held without a shot on two late-period power plays. However, the Sharks dodged a bullet early in the second short-handed situation when Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin lifted a puck in front over an open cage.

The visitors also had an apparent goal waived off at 6:06 of the second when the referee lost sight of a puck that trickled through Niemi and was pushed over the line by Los Angeles forward Dustin Penner.

"I'm sure it's in the rulebook," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "When the whistle blows, what are they (refs) going to come and tell us? Are they going to come and say they lost the puck and they blew the whistle?

The Sharks scored the only goal of a first period they completely dominated.

San Jose outshot the Kings 15-3 in the period, had two power plays and scored at even strength. The Sharks won 17 of the period's 22 draws (15 of 17 at even strength) and had another 14 drives toward the Los Angeles net blocked.

Joe Thornton's line caused trouble for Kings defensemen Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr the entire period, and it was the San Jose captain's line that struck 5-on-5 when Thornton hooked up with Burns.

"They were very good early, established a relentless forecheck and used their size to their advantage," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Thornton's line. "The momentum they created ran throughout the rest of the lines and everyone jumped on board."

Richards blocked a Burns attempt off a Thornton feed, but the puck bounced back to the San Jose center, who found Burns alone to the right of Quick. Burns' one-timer beat Quick high at 6:09 on the host's fifth shot of the game.

"It's a passer's dream to have a guy that size," Thornton said of Burns. "Instead of a three-foot range, it's like a 10-foot range to get him the puck. It's easy playing with him."

Justin Williams put the Kings' third shot on goal at 10:02, but Los Angeles didn't force a save from Niemi the rest of the period.

San Jose put a combined four shots on goal on consecutive power plays -- Fraser for hooking Patrick Marleau at 13:19 and Doughty for slashing Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 15:26.

Tommy Wingels rang a drive off the crossbar with eight seconds left in the

second minor.

"I think we battled back and made it close, but you don't get much for making it close," Sutter said.

NOTES: After much conjecture what line juggling might occur in the two idle days between Games 3 and 4, it turns out the Sharks and Kings made only one change each up front. San Jose promoted James Sheppard to play alongside Scott Gomez and Tommy Wingels on a third line that lost LW Martin Havlat to a recurring injury after just one period of Game 3. Tim Kennedy slid into Sheppard's former left wing spot on the fourth line next to Andrew Desjardins and Bracken Kearns. ... The Kings inserted rugged Kyle Clifford on to a fourth line that included Brad Richardson and Colin Fraser, as Tanner Pearson took a seat in the press box. Los Angeles made a change on defense, dressing Matt Greene in place of Keaton Ellerby. ... Injured Sharks D Jason Demers (ankle) and RW Adam Burish (hand) skated with the team, and they could see action before the series ends.
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