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Royal Collapse
Sharks complete implosion with Game 7 loss
4/30/14 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks were looking to make playoff history this year. Mission accomplished! Since the NHL adopted the best-of-7 game format in 1939, only three other teams lost a playoff series after winning the first three games. You can add the 2013-14 San Jose Sharks to that list. In what can only be described as a collapse of monumental proportions, the Shark's fait accompli was a 4th straight loss to the Los Angeles Kings to cap the biggest bust in team history. The Kings advance to play the Anaheim Ducks after a 5-1 victory over the Sharks at SAP Center.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau cemented their legacy as Sharks with what was arguably the worst collapse in team history. The two were non-existent when their team needed them the most. The Sharks money players in general were AWOL the last three games.

"When I look at it, I think they fixed their problems, we didn't," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "Our problems got progressively worse as we went along. We were awful off the rush. They scored, I don't know how many goals off the rush, and awful around our net. Every day we came to the rink we tried to stress that - giving up out-numbered rushes. We were never able to fix it. It's frustrating because during the year we're pretty good in those areas."

It wouldn't be a surprise to hear that Joe Pavelski had a hand injury. He struggled to hang on to every puck that came his way from Game 4 on. When given the opportunity to score a goal early in the 3rd period on Wednesday night, Pavelski let the puck float off his stick in the opposite direction of Jonathan Quick and the Kings goal. Such was how Game 7 went for San Jose.

Things looked as if they might go the Sharks way early in the game. San Jose out-shot the Kings 14-9 in the opening 20 minutes, but neither team would score.

The Sharks opened the 2nd period with a goal just 28 seconds into the frame. That would be the last goal of 2013-14 season for the Sharks, and it came from an unlikely source. You'd expect the multi-million dollar contracts to cash in, but instead defensive replacement Matt Irwin potted the Sharks only tally of the night. Irwin threw a puck on net from the point, slipping it passed a screened Quick for his 1st playoff goal.

The Sharks surrendered their lead 4 minutes later courtesy of a pair of penalties handed to the Kings by referee Dave Jackson. Tommy Wingels was called for a phantom hooking penalty when Jake Muzzin was able to launch Wingel's stick after pining it between his right arm and torso. Muzzin was credited with drawing an even more suspect elbowing penalty on Logan Couture before Wingel's penalty was set to expire.

The brief 5-on-3 allowed the Kings to setup Drew Doughty's 1st goal of the series. Wingel's penalty actually expired, but he couldn't get back on defense before Doughty potted a shot from the left dot. Doughty was the benefactor of a Jeff Carter shot that bounced off the end boards right to his stick.

The Sharks Achilles heel was exposed across the remainder of the period. San Jose had 4 power play chances that went by the wayside. 8 minutes on the man advantage may as well have been an eternity ot no time at all, as the Sharks failed to getting anything remotely close to Quick.

"I think their defense just swallowed us right up," said Thornton. "They just played real tight defensively and their goaltender got hot like he usually does this time of year. We had the lead one-nothing. That's the way you want to start. We just couldn't grab the second one, he (Quick) played that good tonight."

Anze Kopitar scored the go-ahead goal with 81 seconds left in the period, taking a Justin Williams feed in the slot before side stepping Antti Niemi and depositing an easy backhand shot. Rookie forward Matt Nieto was late to get back defensively, allowing Kopitar to attack uncontested.

"It got turned over in the neutral zone I think and they came back at us and had the late guy coming in," said Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. "He came in and made a nice move and we weren't able to pick him up."

With 20 minutes to atone for their defensive lapse at the end of the prior period, the Sharks set forth with one goal…literally. Simple math will tell you that they needed to score again to make a go of things, but instead, they let Tyler Toffoli slip past their defense and bag goal to push the Kings lead to 3-1.

That was obviously more than they needed, but when the Sharks pulled Niemi, the Kings piled on with a pair of empty netters.

"It looked pretty bleak being down three-nothing," Justin Williams said on the Kings series comeback. "No margin for error. Time to step up and fortunately, we were able to get our game going in time."

Game Notes:

* To frame the Sharks collapse, there have been 176 playoff series that have started 3-0. Again, only 4 times have teams come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series.

* The three other teams that hold the distinction of hucking up a hairball after leading 3-0 in a playoff series include the 1942 Red Wings, the 1975 Penguins and the 2010 Bruins. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup the year after their implosion.

* San Jose finished the evening 0-for-6 on the power play, and 0-for-their -last-15 chances.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
LA 0 2 3 5
SJ 0 1 0 1
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, Irwin 1 (Hertl, Sheppard), 0:28. 2, LA, Doughty 1 (Carter, Gaborik), 4:57, (pp). 3, LA, Kopitar 4 (Williams, Clifford).
3rd period - 4, LA, Toffoli 3 (Pearson, Muzzin), 4:40. 5, LA, Brown 2 (Kopitar), 17:53, (en). 6, LA, Pearson 1 (Lewis), 19:12, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Boyle, SJ (high sticking), 11:09.
2nd period - Voynov, LA (interference), 1:06; Wingels, SJ (hooking), 2:50; Couture, SJ (elbowing), 4:44; Gaborik, LA (hooking), 8:13; King, LA (hooking), 11:43; Lewis , LA (hooking), 16:08.
3rd period - Richards, LA (hooking), 6:15; Muzzin, LA (delay of game - puck over glass), 14:58.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
LA - Quick 40 39
SJ - Niemi 28 25
SJ - empty net 2 0
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
LA 9 12 9 30
SJ 14 15 11 40
Power Play Conversion
LA 1 of 3
SJ 0 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Anze Kopitar
Jonathan Quick
Drew Doughty
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Jackson, O'Rourke. Linesmen: Murphy, Murray.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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