(SAN JOSE) -- The San Jose Sharks know that their 6-3 win in Game One of their first-round, Stanley Cup playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings was "easier" than it should have been, considering the opponent and the situation.
Thus, the Sharks will be on the lookout tonight, as they host Game Two at the SAP Center, for something a little different from their division rivals.
San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Thursday night, fueled by last-minute, first-period goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. When the Sharks increased their lead to 5-0 after the second period, it almost looked too easy.
And it was: the Kings scored three goals in the third to close the gap to just two scores with six minutes remaining, and the collective anxiety in the SAP Center stands could have been burst easily with another score from the L.A. squad.
Alas, it didn't happen, but the Kings sent a message in that third period: it'll never be easy to beat them.
San Jose gave up 69 third-period goals in the regular season, which was the seventh-best mark in the National Hockey League in 2013-14. But the Sharks have had issues with holding third-period leads in playoff series recently (Google it), and no one in the Bay Area wanted to see it happen again.
Look for Los Angeles to come out firing tonight right away, to re-establish their presence in the Sharks' minds and on their bodies. The Kings may have finished behind San Jose in the standings, but no one expects this series to be a sweep.
Of course, the old cliché says a playoff series doesn't really begin until the home team loses a game -- and last year when these two teams played in the second round, the home team never lost. Thus, the pressure is on the Sharks tonight to hold home-ice serve, so to speak: San Jose must win tonight, or else the Kings go home for Game Three on Tuesday with an ace in their pouch.
The Sharks aren't the best under pressure, however, as history has shown us repeatedly. That makes Game Two all the more dramatic for those at the SAP Center tonight and watching on television: will this finally be the year San Jose shakes that reputation as playoff chokers?
Only time will tell, and Game Two starts at 7:00 p.m. tonight.