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Kings turning the tables on San Jose

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On Saturday, April 26, 2014, the Los Angeles Kings posted a 3-0 shutout win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of their best-of-7 first round playoff matchup. Several days ago it all looked pretty bleak for the Los Angeles Kings. After two blowout losses, they lost an OT heartbreaker at home to go down 3 games to none in this series. Then it turned around. They gutted out a 6-3 win in Game 4, and with the win on Saturday night, have narrowed San Jose's series lead to 3-2. Not only did they win Game 5, but in the process, chased starting goalie Antti Niemi. There is much speculation that Alex Stalock who finished the game in relief of Niemi in Game 5, will also get the start in Game 6 on Monday night in Los Angeles. Add to this, key Sharks' defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the first period and did not return. His status for the rest of the series is uncertain. Suddenly, a series which seemed to be all but over after three games, has taken an interesting turn. After having been outscored 17-8 in the first three games, the Kings have outscored San Jose 9-3 in the last two. It has left the Kings faithful with a sense of true hope as this series continues.

Overall, Game 5 was a particularly strong game for the Kings. They did not allow San Jose to dominate the neutral zone, they were responsible defensively, and were patient when it came to their own scoring opportunites. The important part was respecting what the Sharks are capable of doing, and sticking with the gameplan built to neutralize them. The strategy was good, and the execution was even better. When the Sharks did have scoring opportunities, goalie Jonathan Quick was there to make sure nothing came of it. The visiting team was sharp from the drop of the puck. They outshot San Jose 18-6 in the first period, and 41-30 for the game. Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar scored in the first period, and Jeff Carter added one just 22 secs into the second period. Niemi was pulled after Carter's goal. Stalock finished the game by stopping 22 of 22 shots against, but the damage had been done. One can speculate what may have happened had Niemi been sharper on this night, but that does not deter from the fact that this was a shutout win; no team wins a game by scoring zero goals. If there is blame to be placed, it would have to be placed upon the Sharks' lack of offense.

The three stars of the game were all from the Kings. Jonathan Quick was #1, Drew Doughty was #2, Jeff Carter was #3. This was Jonathan Quick's eight career postseason shutout.

The Sharks have to get back to the drawing board. The next big adjustment must be made by the northern California team. The Kings are clearly not going to allow them to be successful playing the style they played in the first two games. This series is a chess match, if the Sharks are unable to devise and execute a new plan of attack post haste, they will be facing checkmate in just a few days. This is the beauty of playoff hockey, and this is what makes the Stanley Cup playoffs so absolutely riveting. Game 6 is sure to be a classic; Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, is gonna be rockin'. There are still tickets available for Game 6.

Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Tyler Toffoli

Tyler Toffoli had a strong Game 5 for the Kings. Toffoli opened the scoring with a goal at ??? of the first period. His early goal would prove to be the game-winner on this night.

Kopi shoots
Kopi shoots Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Kopi shoots

Anze Kopitar, a 2014 Selke trophy finalist, made his presence felt during Game 5. The Slovenian star had a goal in the second period, to help lead his team to victory. Kopi will need to be a factor in Game 6 on Monday as well.

Niemi pulled
Niemi pulled Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Niemi pulled

Sharks goalie Antti Niemi had a tough outing in Game 5. He was pulled in the second period, and there has been much speculation that he will not start in Game 6. Niemi won a Cup in 2010 when he was the starting goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Quick gets shutout
Quick gets shutout Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Quick gets shutout

Jonathan Quick stopped all 30 San Jose shots to earn his eighth career playoff shutout. After two rough outings to start the series, it appears as though the 2012 Conn Smythe trophy winner has found his game. Quick has stopped 65 of 68 San Jose shots in the last two games.