If the Los Angeles Kings weren't desperate coming into Game Three tonight on their home ice, they most definitely will be über-desperate now in Game Four on Thursday night. And that's because the San Jose Sharks beat them in overtime tonight, 4-3, to take a 3-0 series lead in this first-round Stanley Cup playoff matchup -- and that's basically no man's land.
San Jose fought back from a 2-1, second-period deficit and a 3-2, third-period hole before then withstanding an onslaught in the opening minutes of overtime. Amusingly, the Sharks took a single shot in the overtime period, and it was Patrick Marleau's game-winning goal.
And just like that, the Sharks are on the verge of knocking out the Kings in a series most assumed would go the distance, based on last year's seven-game, second-round series where the home team won every game. San Jose busted that streak tonight with the road win, and historically, teams down 3-0 haven't faired very well in professional-sports annals.
Just four times in 316 postseason series in North American professional sports (baseball, basketball and hockey) has a team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the playoff series. But the Sharks know the dangers: they took a 3-0 lead on the Detroit Red Wings in 2011 before losing three straight to then host a Game Seven in the second round.
San Jose emerged victorious that time, but no way the team wants to find themselves in that position again. After years of having their playoff hearts questioned, maybe this is the year the Sharks are able to silence the doubters and be the mentally-tough squad that just wins.
But the overtime situation never would have happened if not for Tomas Hertl's tying goal with 10:43 left in the third. Overall, San Jose peppered L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick with 23 shots in the third period alone, although a power-play chance in the final two minutes of regulation came up empty.
And in the overtime, Sharks goalie Antti Niemi saved the San Jose bacon, as the Kings were relentless in the first five minutes, controlling the puck and tiring out the Sharks in their own zone. But all it takes is one shot in overtime to win, and San Jose taught Los Angeles that lesson the hard way tonight.
So the Sharks have now seen the best the Kings had, and they've come out ahead. Whatever Los Angeles throws at San Jose on Thursday night in Game Four is sure to be fast and furious, but the Sharks know they can handle it now.
Sometimes, that's all you need to win: mere belief.