Kopitar first goal of series put Kings in command

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar finally showed up for the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference semifinals.
His timing could not have been better.
Frustrated, stymied and curtailed by the stingy San Jose Sharks over the first four games of the series, Kopitar awoke late in the second period Thursday simply by being in the right place at the right time.
The result was a crucial goal past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi that set the Kings on their way to a 3-0 victory in Game 5 at Staples Center.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, and they have a chance to close out the Sharks on Sunday in San Jose.
"Just got to get a win," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "Got to look forward to it and play a hard game, which we did a little better job tonight, but just get better."
Game 7, if necessary, would be played Tuesday in Los Angeles, where the Kings have won 13 straight.
"Got to be confident," San Jose forward Logan Couture said. "Season is on the line. We are playing for our lives. I expect to see us as a desperate team. I expect our best players to be way better, myself included in Game 6 and play well at home. I'm confident. I think we are going to go home and win Game 6 and we'll be back in L.A. ...
"We have a lot to look at from tonight's game. We did a lot of things wrong. I'm sure it will help us look at some video and get better."
Either way, the Kings can take comfort in having Kopitar back in the fold, and in the scoring column.
Shut out over the first four games against San Jose and with just one goal over the Kings' first 10 postseason games, Kopitar broke through at the 18:08 mark of the second period, positioning himself to the right of Niemi, finding a loose puck at his feet and punching it in to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
"The legs are a little bit lighter," Kopitar said of getting his first goal of the series.
Greene said, "It's big time. I think Kopitar does a lot of things that go unnoticed. For him to get a goal, get a reward on the score sheet, is great, but we all know his value in here."
The noticeably inspired Kings pulled the momentum of Kopitar's goal into the third period. Striking quickly against Niemi, Slava Voynov fired a wrist shot past him 53 seconds into the period to put the Kings up 2-0.
With Kings goalie Jonathan Quick back on top of his game, that turned out to be an insurmountable lead for the Sharks to overcome.
In recording his second shutout of the series, Quick turned away all 24 shots he faced.
"We played well. We played hard, came out with a purpose," Quick said. "It's not easy. It's not easy to win against this team, they're a great team. We need that effort, we need more. We expect to win in San Jose. That's a tough building to play in. We're going to need a great effort again."
Meanwhile, the Kings killed off three power plays, and they have killed 16 off 17 power plays at home during the playoffs.
"We needed it, and we came out big," Kopitar said.
Jeff Carter added an empty-net goal for the Kings with 32 seconds remaining.
Niemi made 26 saves, but the Sharks could not figure out Quick.
"They just did a better job at getting the pucks out," San Jose forward Joe Thornton said. "We didn't put it in a good place to get it back. That's why they were more effective getting it out. We definitely had our chances, but we just got to bear down. We're getting those opportunities."
San Jose coach Todd McLellan is confident going home.
"We are going back to our building. We have a couple of days to regroup, to rest," he said. "When we've played well this year down the stretch, we've played quick, efficiently, we've made tape-to-tape passes, and that didn't happen tonight. We weren't the team we wanted to be."
NOTES: In 11 playoffs games this year, Quick has stopped 313 of 330 shots. He now has a Kings-record seven career shutouts in the playoffs and 27 career postseason wins. ... The Kings have led a best-of-seven series 3-2 eight previous times, and they are 7-1 in those series. ... Including the regular season, the Kings and Sharks have played a total of nine times this season, with the home team winning each game. "Up to this point, there's been a home-ice advantage," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I don't really think there is anything in particular, everybody is going to look at it when it is over and done and look at their whole year, evaluate schedules and things and then they are going to rate how they played at home and how they played away. I think that that's something that is way down the road and something that seems like a long time ago, because everything is just based on playoffs now." ... Sharks defensemen Marc Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun have been defending Kopitar's line and done the same job they did against Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin in the first round, holding them to just one assist each. "They picked up where they left off in their assignment against the Canucks," McLellan said. "They feel very comfortable playing with each other, and they complement each other well. They're both very good skaters with tremendous stamina, so when they get caught out there long, they're able to maintain their composure and get the job done."

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